Pilots find father of boy who trekked for 3 days

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 May, 2008, 12:00am

A teenage boy hiked for three days and nights to get help for his stranded father, who had a broken leg in the mountains.

Hong Kong's Government Flying Service (GFS) rescued the father two days ago. He was among at least 60 civilians and soldiers airlifted from remote mountainous regions inaccessible by road in the past four days.

Ardis Tang Sing-hing, senior pilot of the service, said the boy had hiked for three days and nights before encountering People's Liberation Army soldiers, who referred him to their command centre at Guanghan airport northeast of Chengdu .

'The boy helped us to visually identify the location of his father, who was hidden under a vehicle to protect him from falling debris.'

The father and son lived in a village at the bottom of a deep valley about 10km west of Qingping county.

'His father is very lucky to have been found at 7,500 feet [2,286 metres]. If not, I don't know how many days he would have been without help,' Captain Tang said.

He said the teenager was very emotional when they flew over the ruins of their home, shouting: 'We are over it! We are over it!'

'We believe there are still a lot of people stranded in the mountains and our operation has yet to reach its peak,' Captain Tang said.

But rescuers had to overcome increasing difficulties flying at high altitudes in mountainous landscapes, where the earthquake had almost reshaped the topography.

'There are great differences between the actual topography and the aerial images we have. Many of the once-green areas have turned yellow. The maps will have to be redrawn.'

Yesterday, the fourth day of the service's operation, 20 mainland tourists were rescued from a remote site, and army officers were airlifted to other mountainous regions.

The success of the GFS team, flying a helicopter owned by China Rescue, has prompted the service to send its own rescue helicopter to Sichuan today, hoping more people can be saved.

The helicopter will leave Hong Kong at 8am and fly via Guilin and Guiyang to Guanghan. It is expected to arrive at 5pm.

'With one more aircraft, we can become more efficient, as there is still a list of people waiting for help,' a source said.

The GFS team in Sichuan now comprises two pilots, three crew members and an engineer.