Earthquake hero's strong will to survive and see his family

Chen Xiaoli
Gan Yu was found last Wednesday, 17 days after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit Luding County in southwestern China's Sichuan Province.
Chen Xiaoli
Earthquake hero's strong will to survive and see his family

Gan Yu was found by a local villager on September 21.

Gan Yu, an earthquake hero who stayed on at a hydropower station with his colleague, preventing downstream villages from being flooded, was found last Wednesday, 17 days after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit Luding County in southwestern China's Sichuan Province.

On September 5 when the earthquake struck Luding, Gan and Luo Yong, employees at the Wandong Hydropower Station, chose not to escape but instead climbed up the dam to open two floodgates to release the rising water, saving the lives of hundreds of villagers.

Luo was rescued on September 8 while Gan was found by a local villager, Ni Taigao, on September 21. Gan was transferred from a hospital's ICU to the general ward on the afternoon of September 25 and his mental state was good.

While many netizens felt this was a miracle of life, some attentive ones found that Gan had become a lot thinner after comparing his photos before and after the incident. "He must have suffered a lot," some commented.

A relative of Gan said he used to weigh 75 kilograms but now weighs about 55 kilograms.

What drove Gan to persist for 17 days? What has he experienced? In an interview with China Central Television on Monday, Gan talks about his self-saving experience in detail.

Earthquake hero's strong will to survive and see his family

The Wandong Hydropower Station before the earthquake. The floodgates are on the left.

Looking back on the day of the earthquake, Gan said that when the water level rose, he proposed opening the floodgates to release water, so he and his colleague Luo decided to hold off on evacuating the premises.

"I told Luo Yong that the gates of the dam should be lifted to release the water, otherwise it would rush to many people, and Luo Yong agreed," Gan recalled.

Gan is very nearsighted. At that time, his glasses were smashed by a flying stone, and he could only see a distance of about 10 meters. So Luo went to open a floodgate first. Later, Gan climbed up the dam and opened another floodgate together with Luo.

After they decided to move out to save themselves, they were trapped on the mountain for a long time without access to food. Gan's leg was injured in an aftershock. Thinking that he would drag down his companion, Gan decided to let Luo go first and try to find help.

After Luo left, Gan stayed where he was for three or four days. Because of the constant aftershocks, he was worried that Luo would have an accident on the road, so he decided to walk in the direction where Luo left. During this time, he overcame many unimaginable difficulties.

Earthquake hero's strong will to survive and see his family

Gan talks to a reporter from China Central Television on September 26.

Gan soon got lost on the mountain. With his blurry vision, he could only eat wild kiwi fruit on the ground.

"I ate a lot. Some kiwis were ripe and some were raw. I hadn't eaten kiwis before, but now I think they are delicious," he said.

Gan said drinking water was also a big challenge. In the beginning, there was a small stream, but when he went up the mountain, he could only drink moss water. When he could not find a source of water, he said to himself: "If you want to survive, you can only drink your own urine."

Gan tried to save himself many times. "I built some 'nests' with materials I could find. I also tried to make a fire but failed as I didn't have any tools and it was raining almost all the time. I could only lay on the ground and dry my clothes when the sun was out."

On the days when Gan was trapped, his concept of time was very vague.

"Sometimes I felt tired and slept for a day. It felt like 20 or 30 days had passed," he said.

He said the most difficult time was when his foot was injured. As he couldn't walk, he had to stay in place for a day or two.

During the search for Gan, rescuers found some of his clothes, which he said he had taken off to call for help.

Gan said that during tough times, what drove him was his longing for his family and for survial.

"I believed that there must be some people nearby looking for me, and I needed to let them find me," he said.

On September 21, Ni, the local villager, followed a sound and found Gan laying in the woods.

"I called for help. When I heard someone respond, I continued to shout as I knew someone was there. I was very excited when I saw him," Gan said.

Looking back on this experience, Gan said: "It's not easy to survive. Although I have encountered many difficulties, I feel that nothing is as important as life. We stayed at the hydropower station because we wanted to save the downstream villagers. And later, I was rescued because of the villagers. Thank you, everyone."

Gan said what he wants to do most is to eat a good meal and spend more time with his family after he recovers.

According to West China Hospital in Chengdu, Sichuan's capital, Gan is expected to undergo surgery on his left ankle on Wednesday. If the recovery goes well, he will be discharged from the hospital later this week.

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