CHINA Podcast: Story in the Story (01/07/2019 Mon.)

CHINA

Podcast: Story in the Story (01/07/2019 Mon.)

People's Daily app

01:23, January 07, 2019

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From the People's Daily app.

And this is Story in the Story.

Frogmen spend upwards of 260 days out of the year working underwater. 

These professional divers possess unique skills that are hard to come by and take years to perfect. Frogmen perform a variety of tasks from repairing underwater infrastructure to providing assistance with maritime search and rescue efforts. 

When flooding threatens a city, or a pipeline cracks, or a road collapses, frogmen are the first to arrive on the scene.  

It might be the most dangerous job a person could ever love.

Today’s Story in the Story looks at China’s frogmen, people who work underwater in freezing cold temperatures and harsh conditions as they save lives, repair infrastructure, and help keep the country’s waterways flowing. 

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Yang wears winter diving equipment during an underwater operation. (Photo: China Daily)

Yang Xiaguang has been a professional frogman for 20 years. Each year on average he spends 200 days submerged in water carrying out assignments like clearing mud, stacking sand bags, or saving lives.

"The most difficult time is the winter. The water temperature is low, and the biting cold leaves my body numb," said Yang.

On the second day of 2019, the temperature in Changsha, Hunan Province, was -2 C. 

Yang warmed himself up by the Xiangjiang River for a diving task to inspect leak points on a cofferdam designated for a flood prevention project.

Before jumping in the water, Yang carefully checked his diving equipment, including the oxygen tank, air pipe, helmet and walkie-talkie. "It is cold, so if the air pipe is blocked, it would be dangerous," he said.

He had to carry a 20-kilogram weight, so he wouldn’t float to the top.

Once under the water, it was pitch black and Yang could not see anything or identify direction. He fumbled his way forward and felt leak points on the wall of the cofferdam using his bare hands inch by inch.

He had to gauge the water flow at every spot just to ensure nothing had been missed.  

It’s a task that normally takes two hours. After he pulled himself out of the water Yang said, "my whole body turned numb, and I couldn’t feel my hands or feet, even if someone had hit them.”  

Yang warned that it’s never a good idea to bath in hot water immediately after getting out of freezing cold water because it can harm the joints.  

Yang began diving in 1998.  Back then, the darkness at the bottom of the ocean frightened him, but it was a fear he eventually overcame. 

Before he was a frogman, he worked as a clerk at a hydropower station. One day, the facility needed a frogman to shut down a water gate, and it was then that he volunteered to be trained as a diver.

"I wanted to try new jobs and challenges," Yang recalled.

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Yang emerges from the water after a diving operation. (Photo: China Daily)

35-year-old Chu Jinyong began his civilian frogman career at the China National Offshore Oil Corporation after serving eight years as a PLA Navy diver. 

"Training in the Navy is centered on protection, which is physical, but my job now is technical and the aim of each task is clear,” he explained.

"Although many people consider my job as highly risky and I am away from my family, I still love it," he said.

Born in Hubei Province and raised near the Yangtze River, Chu has spent two Spring Festival holidays away from his family because of work.

Frogmen must be aware of their every move as one mistake, or the smallest delay, could result in huge financial loss.

He’ll always remember his first underwater assignment. "It was in the winter and the water was freezing. I could not feel my hands after being underwater for 20 minutes.”

It took him 50 minutes to complete the task. He found out later that an experienced frogman could have finished the same task in 30 minutes. 

Now that Chu is a veteran frogman, his skill set is extremely valuable.

During one recent job, he spent almost 100 minutes underwater to complete a complicated pipe installation. He learned later he had saved the company almost seven days in shipping time.

Chu said he loves his job so much, the thought of retiring has yet to cross his mind.  

(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Lance Crayon, Brian Lowe, Da Hang, and Chelle Wenqian Zeng. Music by: bensound.com. Text from China Daily)

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