'How could they not reach my wife?': Shenzhen man slams police after wife drowns in flood

Housewife drowns waiting for police help after her car was trapped by floodwaters; similar incident occurred at same spot two years ago

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 September, 2013, 8:47am

A Shenzhen man has accused city police of being slow to respond after his wife drowned in her car while waiting for help during a flash flood on Friday.

Tong Xuxian died on her way to pick up her husband and nine-year-old son from a train station in the early morning when her car stalled in a flooded underpass during the city's heaviest rains in 20 years. The city had vowed to fix the drainage after a similar incident in 2011.

Tong's husband, Huang Sentian , 32, said his wife spent the final minutes of her life waiting in vain for Shenzhen police to rescue her before water engulfed her car.

"She phoned me at 4.40am to say she was trapped in the car and the water had risen above her knees," Huang said. "She was calm, because she called the police before phoning me."

Tong phoned again at 4.54am to say the water was rising fast. "I'm looking for a way out," Tong said. "Please don't worry. But the water is reaching my neck."

Even then, Huang never thought it would be his last conversation with his wife.

"My wife called our friends at 5.11am and, two minutes later, she redialed the number and mistook our friend for policemen. She cried: 'why can't you still reach me?'. That's the last call we received from her," Huang said.

At 7.30am, police divers arrived at the scene and found Tong's body a rear seat in her car.

"The city's poor drainage caused my wife's death. How bad is our municipal infrastructure that a car can be submerged in just a few minutes?" Huang said.

"But it's totally unforgivable that the policemen did little to try to save my wife. They told me they arrived there at 4.59am. But my wife was still fully conscious at the time and even made calls at 5.11am and 5.13am."

"How could they not reach my wife? There are no acceptable excuses here," Huang said.

According to a statement issued later by Nanshan district government: "Police, firemen and ambulances rushed to the scene at 4.59am after they received a report at 4.54am … But torrential water metres deep made it difficult to reach the car."

Until yesterday afternoon, Huang said the authorities had turned a deaf ear to the tragedy.

"No government official has tried to reach me to say what actually happened at the time."

Huang said he hoped local lawyers could help him obtain legal aid to fight for justice.

Torrential rain struck the city at about 2am on Friday, but Tong decided to go to the train station to meet Huang and their son, who were returning from a home visit to Jiangxi province.

The government had pledged to correct drainage at the underpass after another car was trapped by a flood in the same underpass in 2011. The driver sat his roof until police came. Tong's death showed that authorities did not keep their promise, the Shenzhen Evening News said.