The severe floods in China are ruthlessly claiming lives, but at the same time creating heroes rather than cowards.
Acts of bravery include soldiers marching on foot with disaster-relief supplies on their backs, rural workers repairing damaged roads around the clock, volunteers doling out food at the roadside and medical workers speeding to severely affected areas to rescue the injured.
"Lots of people have lost their lives, we survivors are teaming up and getting stronger," said Liang Hong, a health worker in Foping county in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.
When the June 8 floodwaters advanced on the apartment building Liang lived in, a man named Zhang Bingqian knocked on the door of every household and told people to run.
At the last minute Zhang went back home to fetch his granddaughter, but the flood arrived and engulfed everything in its path.
"How can we repay this good person who gave his life to save us?" Liang sobbed, unable to speak.
The answer is obvious. The simply-equipped worker with a local epidemic prevention center is busy day and night keeping people from contracting diseases.
Around a street corner in the same county, Cai Zhigang, anothersurvivor, is contributing like Liang in his own way.
"Come, have some food, no charge," the former garage owner warmly invites passers-by to take some porridge he has made. Although his garage worth 200,000 yuan (about 24,100 U.S. dollars)was reduced to nothing by the flood, happily he discovered 200 kilograms of rice left high and dry.
Having seen too many victims survive the flood to become tortured by hunger, he drives a car loaded with the food he prepares and feeds 70 people on average every day.
In the vast flood-stricken areas stretching from the remote northwestern desert region of Xinjiang to the densely populated central province of Hebei, the people's love of life makes them spiritually strong in the face of natural disasters.
And psychological and physical help has come not only from the flood-hit areas but also other regions.
Donations of food and clothes from private enterprises in Shaanxi Province alone have reached an equivalent of 260,000 yuan (about 31,000 U.S. dollars).
Thousands of soldiers and officers from the Chinese People's Liberation Army, armed police forces and militia reservists have been mobilized to fight the floods.
Facing the ongoing catastrophe which may worsen as more rain falls, every average Chinese shines like a hero eager to help others and give their all for rebuilding their homeland.
"Construction should not damage the natural environment," said Zhang Wei, deputy governor of Shaanxi Province and responsible forlocal disaster relief work. "The floods have taught us the importance of respecting nature."
According to a water resources expert, the floods occurring in Foping can be blamed on a number of man-made factors such as building houses along riverbanks and turning tidal zones into arable land.
During this flood, houses erected on streets near riverbanks were all destroyed. In some places, debris as high as an adult wasleft.
Despite experts regarding the flood as something of a punishment, Zhang Wei believes there is still time to make amends.
In the county's original forest with its 86 percent vegetation cover, the floods caused no major landslides or mud-rock flows andnormal life for the panda, a rare animal under state protection, hasn't been affected.
This sharp contrast raised local people's awareness of the needto protect nature and no damage to natural vegetation was allowed during the disaster-relief work, Zhang said.
While mending the road leading to the Jinshui Power Station in Yangxian County, soldiers first had to build a dam to hold back water. However, nobody suggested chopping down a tree although a wooden pile driven into the ground might have made the task easier.
Instead they stood in water for hours using their bodies as a human wall until the dam was built.
As roads damaged by floods are repaired and power supplies restored, relief supplies are reaching local victims more quickly.And the next job for these brave Chinese is to rebuild homes and return to normal life.
In the Changjiaoba Central Primary School in Foping County, students absent from their classrooms for a week finally are picking up textbooks and reading aloud.
After educational departments' intervention and nationwide assistance, more than 100 primary schools affected by floods have reopened.
Local educational official Yang Guirong said, "Although school rebuilding will last till September and a cash shortage remains, frightened children are relieved."
(Xinhua News Agency June 19 2002)