Girl rescue was result of a defied order

08:44, July 27, 2011      

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The Wenzhou city police officer who helped save a 32-month-old girl in "a miracle" 21 hours after Saturday's train crash did so only after defying orders to clean up the site from officials who had given up hope of finding anyone else alive.

Shao Yerong, a police captain, rejected the order from the railway rescue headquarters and insisted on leading his team in a longer search for survivors, many hours after authorities announced there were no signs of life in the wreckage.

Wenzhou's police department yesterday said online rumors that Shao has been punished for refusing the clean-up order were untrue.

The No. 16 carriage, where the toddler Xiang Weiyi was riding, was the last car of the D3115 train. It was smacked by the D301 train and was the most seriously damaged among the six cars involved in the crash. Four carriages of the D301 fell off the viaduct after it rear-ended D3115, and the last two cars of D3115 derailed.

Shao said his rescuers had recovered bodies of 12 killed victims from the wreckage of the No. 16 car before getting the order to remove it with a crane and "clean up the tracks."

"I said no. And I insisted we should climb up to the scene instead. There might still be lives buried inside the wreckage," he was quoted by Xinhua news agency. "It was hard to imagine if some victims were traumatized again or killed in the craning operation."

Sure enough, they later found Xiang Weiyi with severe leg injuries but still alive, struggling under a temperature between 40 and 50 degrees Celsius for about 21 hours. "I saw big movements in her back from her deep breaths. We knew she's alive," said the officer.

Then rescuers began digging with their bare hands through the metal debris to reach her.

One of the rescuers recalled: "We were removing the rubble and suddenly we saw a little hand moving inside a crack no more than 4 centimeters wide. The girl was crouching in a 50-plus centimeter space, which was sustained by a piece of iron rod. That space saved her."

"Before the girl, I only rescued two alive from the rubble. I felt sad and thought it might be hopeless," the soldier said.

The Ministry of Railways' decision to clean up the site and give up on finding any more survivors generated widespread public criticism, with many people expressing disbelief that officials would put a premium on quickly resuming train traffic over the chance to save more lives.

Wang Yongping, the ministry spokesman, previously said that the girl's rescue was "a miracle."

It was the toddler's first-ever bullet train journey, and it left her an orphan as both her parents were confirmed dead in the crash, which killed 39 people. The hospital confirmed yesterday the girl was in a stable condition and would not need an amputation.

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