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Ignoring Warning Signs – Online Discussions on the Pengzhou Mountain Flash Flood

A day after the mountain river flood in Pengzhou, Chinese netizens reflect on how the incident could happen.

Manya Koetse

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The mountain flash flood that killed at least seven people in Sichuan’s Pengzhou is trending on Chinese social media, where people are discussing how this tragic incident could happen despite the Longcao valley being filled with warning signs not to go down to the river.

On Saturday, August 13, a flash flood in the city of Pengzhou in Sichuan province killed seven people and injured eight.

Videos taken at the scene show how people were taken by surprise as the water burst down the mountain. Many people had set up tents and tables, enjoying playtime with families and friends by the shallow water.

The incident happened in the afternoon at the Longcao valley (龙漕沟) in the Longmen Mountain Scenic Area, a popular area for (domestic) tourism and day trips. Since it was a sunny Saturday, the area was particularly crowded with people playing, cooking, eating, and camping by the water.

As the flash flood came, not everybody initially seemed aware of how life-threatening the situation was. Some people still took the time to collect their belongings, taking their tents and chairs with them before leaving the scene (see videos in Twitter thread below).

Other videos show how some visitors were slow to respond or even ignored warnings given to them about the rising water levels.

Not all people could reach the river bank in time and some people, including children, were swept away by the speeding water. One particularly heart-wrenching video showed a father and his child trapped in the river and being dragged away by the strong water current (#男子在洪水中紧抱孩子#).

 

“Cherish Life, Don’t Go Down the River” Warnings Ignored

 

Earlier that day, at 14:37, a Longmenshan weather warning forecasted short periods of heavy rainfall in the area, increasing the risk of mountain floods, after which the local authorities immediately sent out patrol teams to the riverside to warn visitors to get away from the area.

The area around Longmen mountain and the Longcao valley have warning signs placed by Pengzhou authorities that people should not go down the river due to the risk of sudden mountain floods, especially in summertime.

Warning sign saying: “Cherish life, please don’t go down the river.”

Other photos show that some river bank areas are also fenced off to prevent day-trippers from playing at the river, with warning signs placed: “Prohibited to go down the river, cherish life, if you still go down the river, you must bear the consequences of your risky actions” (禁止下河 珍爱生命 私自下河 一切后果自负).

“Cherish your life, don’t go down the river, if you go down on your own accord, you should bear all consequences of your own risky actions.”

With hundreds of people around the area, it is clear that many warning signs were ignored. This seems to be a common occurrence, since the site is somewhat of a ‘social media hotspot’ (网红打卡点).

Chinese influencers and Xiaohongshu users often post photos of themselves having a BBQ and enjoying the water at the Longcao valley, letting their children swim in the mountain river.

Longcao valley is a ‘social media hotspot.’

At 15:30 on Saturday, less than hour after the initial weather warning, the area’s Xiaoyudong (小鱼洞) first saw a flash flood, and the people who were still at the mountain river were swept away by the water.

According to people who were at the scene, rescue vehicles had problems getting to the scene shortly after because the road was blocked by visitors’ cars.

One popular Weibo blogger called Wuwei Liye (@无为李爷) wrote that he firmly rejected the idea that local authorities should be held responsible for what happened: “They did all they could. Not only did they put up warning signs, they even put up fences (..) and later also shouted out to visitors that they should hurry and get out, but nobody paid attention to them.”

The blogger writes that social media is partly to blame for normalizing risky visits to the river bed and mountain river. “Irresponsible platforms and influencers wrongfully giving publicity to this should be held responsible.”

This stance is also reiterated by official media outlet Global Times (环球网). In a Weibo editorial, they blamed social media celebrities for hyping up Longcao valley despite the area being a fenced-off no-entry zone.

Photo via Baidu, showing visitors entering the area despite a warning sign and fences.

Global Times draws a comparison between the Longcao valley and other dangerous areas that are popular among social media influencers, such as a famous Qinghai road where they pose for pics despite the traffic, or a “starry sky” tunnel in Ningbo, where some risk their life for a pretty photo.

A road in Qinghai and a traffic tunnel in Ningbo are popular picture-taking spots for social media influencers, who risk their own safety and that of others for the perfect selfie.

Many other bloggers also think parents taking their children out to the river bed should also be blamed for their irresponsibility.

Photo showing people enjoying themselves in the Longcao area despite a warning telling them not to go into the river.

Meanwhile, one man who was at the scene is being praised on social media for his brave behavior. As one woman struggled to cross the river with the flash flood nearing, he went back to grab her and bring her to safety. A hashtag dedicated to the vigilance of the heroic man garnered over 140 million views on Weibo on Sunday (#彭州突发山洪黑衣男子逆行救人#)

On the afternoon of August 14th, Pengzhou again sent out a total of fifteen rescue teams for a third search and rescue operation. The rescue operation was rounded up by night time.

By Manya Koetse

 

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

Residents in Locked Down Lhasa Say Local Epidemic Situation is a “Giant Mess”

Manya Koetse

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They’ve been in lockdown for 42 days already, but according to some Lhasa-based bloggers, there have been no improvements in the local epidemic situation. They say there is a stark difference between what officials are reporting and the daily reality they are dealing with in Tibet.

“The epidemic situation is bad in Lhasa, please pay attention,” one netizen wrote on Weibo on September 15, pointing to many new posts surfacing on Chinese social media about the difficulties people are facing in Lhasa city in Tibet.

Over the past week, many Tibet-based bloggers have posted on social media about the local circumstances, and hundreds of Chinese social media posts talk about similar problems in the region. Despite the ongoing lockdown, they say, there are still a growing number of positive cases within Lhasa communities; buses are allegedly going back and forth to bring people to quarantine sites where those testing positive and negative are mixed; they claim that there is an absolute lack of management and control; and many locals suggest that the official reports do not reflect the actual number of Covid cases at all.

According to the official numbers, Tibet saw its peak in Covid cases on August 17 and has since reported fewer new cases, reporting a total of 118 new cases on Thursday.

“I am a bit shocked!” one local social media user wrote: “What I saw was a total of 28 buses lined up outside Lhasa Nagqu No. 2 Senior High School, and then still more [buses] were coming. One bus can fit around 50 people, so there must have been around 1400 positive cases. There was a blind man, there were elderly people in wheelchairs, there were swaddled-up babies, from getting on the bus at 9.30 pm up to now, we’ve been waiting for 5 hours and we’re still waiting now. It’s just pure chaos at the school entrance, there is no order. I won’t sleep tonight.”

On the 14th of September, another netizen wrote:

“In order to welcome central government leaders to Lhasa and to demonstrate the “excellent” epidemic prevention capabilities of the local government & the “outstanding” results of the fight against the epidemic to them, they moved citizens to the rural areas and let them all stay crowded together in unfinished concrete buildings, with all kinds of viruses having free reign.”

On a Lhasa community message board, one Weibo user wrote: “Lhasa has already been in lockdown for over a month, yet our little community has so many infected people that I’m wondering how effective a lockdown actually is? Has Tibet been forgotten? When other places in China have a few positive cases it becomes a hot topic. But what about Tibet? And what about Lhasa?”

Another anonymous poster writes: “Regarding the Lhasa epidemic situation, the numbers were already a bit fake before, but I can understand it was also to take the public sentiment into consideration. I personally don’t care how you report the data, as long as the epidemic prevention and control work is properly managed, then the lockdown can be lifted soon and nobody will say anything about it. But a month has passed already, and in a town with some hundred thousands of people, the epidemic work is increasingly getting worse. Many people around me have never even left the house and inexplicably turned out to test positive. Meanwhile those who tested positive are quarantined together with people who still tested negative, it’s a giant mess.”

 

“Lhasa hasn’t had a Covid outbreak for the past three years, the city doesn’t have enough experience in controlling the epidemic.”

 

“It’s the 42nd day of lockdown,” another person wrote on Friday: “People are lining up to go to centralized isolation, Lhasa has been in lockdown longer than Chengdu, but it doesn’t make it to the hot topic lists. People who tested negative again and again suddenly turn out to be positive. Lhasa hasn’t had a Covid outbreak for the past three years, the city doesn’t have enough experience in controlling the epidemic. It’s going to be hard to restore tourism here before the end of the year. Before, big crowds would come to visit.

Over the past few days, following a heightened focus on the situation in Xinjiang, there has also been more attention for the epidemic situation in Tibet.

“Please pay more attention to the topic of the Lhasa epidemic,” one person wrote, repeating a similar message sent out by many others: “Lhasa doesn’t need your prayers, we need exposure.”

On Friday, one popular gamer with more than a million followers wrote on Weibo:

“Many have been reaching out to me via private messages, saying that the epidemic situation in Tibet’s Lhasa is very serious. If it’s really like this, I hope matters can be settled as soon as possible. I don’t know if this post can stay up or not, but I want to try my best to speak up and generate more attention to this epidemic trend. I experienced two months of lockdown in Shanghai myself and understand what it feels like. I have faith in our nation, and I believe the country will definitely take action. Everyone in Tibet, jiayou [come on].”

Many of the comments and posts coming from Lhasa are similar to those we saw last week, coming from Yining in Xinjiang. Social media users based in these places complain that many of their posts have been deleted and that it is very difficult for local residents to make their voices heard.

This is different from the previous lockdown situations in, for example, Xi’an, Shanghai, or Chengdu, where people posted videos, photos, and shared their lockdown experiences, either from home, from the Covid testing lines, or from the makeshift hospitals.

On the one hand, the reason why people in places such as Lhasa or Yining have more difficulties in making their stories heard in China’s hectic social media environment relates to the fact that these places have a relatively small population size – while Yining and Lhasa have approximately 542,00 and 465,000 inhabitants respectively, there are 21 million people in Chengdu and some 26 million in Shanghai.

But a bigger barrier to posting about their circumstances is formed by the social media censorship that is extra strict when it comes to Xinjiang and Tibet as these places are considered sensitive political subjects, which is why topics related to these regions see far more aggressive online censorship – even for seemingly innocuous posts.

One Weibo user with over 600,000 followers wrote: “In such a sensitive place as Tibet, I really needn’t worry about whether they’re gonna see my post or not. I posted to vent my anger and scolded the leadership for a bit and within 24 hours the police came to my hotel and asked me to delete my posts. Now that everyone is asking for help like this, they will definitely see it, but they are determined to do this and do so on purpose, it’s clear they don’t care about people’s lives.”

Meanwhile, Chinese official media reporting on the epidemic situation in Tibet stress the collective effort to fight the virus in Lhasa. On September 15, People’s Daily reported how 18 sister provinces and cities across China sent their best teams to Tibet to help with local anti-epidemic work and to bring supplies.

The Tibet-based military blogger ZhufengZhengrong (@珠峰峥嵘) writes: “It’s been over a month and my comrade-in-arms are still fighting on the front line (..). I just hope the epidemic will end soon, and that I will be able to meet my family and hold my children and weep.”

By Manya Koetse 

 

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China Brands & Marketing

Young Chinese Woman Dies at Haidilao Hotpot Restaurant

The woman allegedly choked while having beef tripe.

Manya Koetse

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On September 8, a woman from Putian in Fujian Province unexpectedly passed away while having hotpot at a Haidilao restaurant in a local mall.

The incident went trending on Chinese social media on Thursday, with the hashtags “Woman Suddenly Passes Away While Having Haidilao Hotpot” (#女孩海底捞吃火锅意外身亡#) and “Haidilao Responds to Female Customer Passing Away During Dinner” (#海底捞回应女顾客就餐时身亡#) receiving 50 million and 300 million views respectively.

According to various Chinese news reports, the 21-year-old woman had just finished eating beef tripe, the edible lining from the cow stomach, and drank some water after which she suddenly became unwell.

Footage circulating on Chinese social media shows how restaurant staff gave first aid to the woman by performing the Heimlich maneuver while emergency workers were underway.

Although it is rumored the young woman choked on the tripe, this has not yet been confirmed as an investigation into the cause of death is ongoing. The Haidilao restaurant where the incident happened is currently closed, and Haidilao responded that they are deeply saddened and will do all they can to fully cooperate with the police to investigate the case.

Haidilao (海底捞) is one of China’s most popular restaurant chains serving authentic Sichuan hotpot, a dining style where fresh meat and vegetables are dipped in simmering broth. Besides its tasty hotpot and wide selection of ingredients and drinks, Haidilao is known for its high-quality service. The staff is thoroughly trained in providing the best customer service, and Haidilao has introduced new concepts throughout the years to enhance the customer experience.

Haidilao is a very reputable company and is known to respond quickly to avert social media crises (example here and here).

As the story goes trending, many Chinese netizens point out the choking hazard of beef tripe. One lung doctor (@呼吸科大夫胡洋) also responded to the incident, suggesting that the Heimlich maneuver might not have been life-saving in this case since beef tripe is long and soft and could block the respiratory tract if the Heimlich maneuver is performed while the person is standing up, since it could potentially cause the tripe to go deeper instead of being pushed out.

The doctor recommends in these kind of emergency situations that if possible, for a chance of survival, the person could then be placed into an upside down, upper body down position for the Heimlich maneuver.

Other doctors on Weibo also use this moment to provide more information about how to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

Many online commenters think Haidilao is not necessarily to blame for what happened. “Judging from the video, the staff was quick and correct in their response. As for why the woman could not have been rescued, we’ll have to wait for the final reports.”

By Manya Koetse 

 

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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