Wenzhou policeman gets sick saving girl from polluted river

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 May, 2013, 4:49pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 May, 2013, 5:18pm

A veteran policeman braved sewage and bile to rescue a girl from a river in Zhejiang, but he too ended being hospitalised - and heavily polluted water was to blame.

Zhang Guangcong, carried a 14-year-old girl out of a Wenzhou city river on Friday so she could be taken to hospital, where she is now in stable condition. Media reports said she had attempted to commit suicide.

Later during the day, Zhang started coughing, vomiting and later suffered burning eyes, skin irritations and dizziness.

The 51-year-old police officer was admitted to the Third People’s Hospital a day later where doctors diagnosed him as having a severe infection of the lungs, most likely contracted from the bacteria-infested river.

Zhang, nicknamed “Muscles Zhang” for to his powerful physique, was hailed as a hero by the town for risking his life to save the girl.

Cangnan county’s chiefs of police and education visited Zhang in hospital and called on more people to learn from him.

The head of the Environmental Protection Bureau, however, did not pay a visit, much to the chagrin of netizens. Online, angry netizens criticised the country’s growing water pollution problem.

On Sina Weibo, China’s main microblogging service, some users called on the County Environmental Protection Bureau to issue a “formal apology” to Zhang.

In the same province earlier this year, an entrepreneur made headlines after he openly challenged a government official in charge of environmental matters to swim in a polluted river, in an attempt to draw attention to province's environmental plight. He offered him 200,000 yuan (HK$246,000).

The official, chief of Ruian city's Environmental Protection Bureau, turned down the offer and said he was "not responsible [for the pollution]".