We had heard about one of the relief workers at the Dalian oil spill being drowned underneath the crust, but it felt like just another unfortunate China statistic until we saw photos of it. One Chinese photographer captured the whole event (Zhang Liang’s drowning, and the rescue of his coworker) in harrowing detail – and as shocking and frustrating and anger-inducing as it was to see animals drenched in oil from BP’s recent gulf spill, to look at a human struggling in the slick is even more so.
From the translation at Chinasmack, it seems that two firefighters, Zhang Liang and Han Xiaoxiong were busy cleaning a water pump in the ocean. As they’re pushing the floating pump into deeper waters, Zhang Liang is separated from the floating pump and sinks under the oil as a third man attempts to swim out to the both of them. Only Han Xiaoxiong is able to be rescued.
The thing that struck me most is how avoidable this accident seemed. What were two men doing in their skivvies in the middle of an ocean filled with toxic sludge? By comparison, this is the least I’ve seen anyone in pictures from the BP oil spill wear while working in these conditions.
Photo from U.S. Coast Guard
It shows that, in terms of knowing how to safely respond to environmental disasters (leaving aside how to prevent so many from happening so often for a minute), China still has a long, long way to go.