Local Chinese fishing club members finish the rescue in Houston, the United States, Aug. 31, 2017. When the most powerful hurricane in decades slammed southeast Texas and brought heavy flooding to the area, 47-year-old Gao Mingjiang and his friends in a local Chinese fishing club found a better way to use their boat -- rescuing people who were trapped in waters. (Xinhua/Liu Liwei)
by Li Ming, Gao Lu
HOUSTON, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- When the most powerful hurricane in decades slammed southeast Texas and brought heavy flooding to the area, 47-year-old Gao Mingjiang and his friends in a local Chinese fishing club found a better way to use their boat -- rescuing people who were trapped in waters.
Four days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall on costal Texas in southeast Unites States on Aug. 25, the hurricane downgraded to tropical storm and dumped nearly 50 inches (127 cm) of rain in and around Houston in southeast Texas.
It was then that Gao and his neighbors in Sugar Land, a small city 20 miles (32 km) from downtown Houston, were asked for a mandatory evacuation from their homes by local authorities.
As a semi-pro fisherman, Gao quickly removed his family away from their flooded house in a boat with the help of his friend Zhao Kai, a 29-year-old man who also belongs to the local Chinese fishing club called Sugar Land fishing group.
The minute Gao and Zhao settled their families down together in a friend's house, they made a decision to form a rescue team and use their boat to save more people.
After publishing their address and contact information online, Gao and Zhao received dozens of anxious calls from people in the same area who were stranded at flooded homes.
"It was getting dark, we told them to stay on the second floor and promised to get them early in the morning," Gao recalled.
The two friends set off in dawn and heavy rain on Aug. 30. After using a pickup to carry the boat to the edge of the water, they jumped into the muddy flood waters and pushed the boat into a deeper region. They climbed back to the boat and began their search.
"You have to be very careful. Everything was under water, roads, trees, fire hydrants. The boat could easily bump into an object and break the engine," Zhao told Xinhua, saying it took them hours to find a targeted house.
After nine hours' non-stop work, they managed to evacuate nearly 40 people that day.
Gao and Zhao are among many local Chinese who have taken actions to help rescue others in the hurricane.
According to Shi Xiangmi, a volunteer who helped to publish rescue information, there were more than 1,000 Chinese rescue volunteers in Sugar Land alone.
In online groups called "Houston Rescue" and "Sugar Land Chinese," thousands of people were exchanging rescue information and offering help in ways of providing boat, pickup, labor or money.h "Altogether we rescued thousands of evacuees in the water," Shi said.
The rescue teams of local Chinese community played a major role in saving people before the police and U.S. military showed up for help a day after, according to Shi.
When asked if they only rescue Chinese, Gao shook his head firmly, adding that "regardless Chinese or American, Indian or Mexican, we would save whoever needed help."
After evacuating an old white lady into a safe spot, they got a hug from the lady, with tears in her eyes, Gao recalled.
"At that moment, I felt all the efforts paid off," Gao said.