'My dad is your dad'

'My dad is your dad'
VICTIM: Firefighters carrying the body of a victim at the site of the explosion in Tianjin.
PHOTO: Reuters

A poignant WeChat conversation between a fireman - who was fighting a massive fire - and his friend has gone viral.

The fire and two huge explosions killed at least 50 people and injured 700 at a chemical storage facility in the Chinese city of Tianjin on Wednesday.

The youngest victim was only 18 and the blast also raised fears about toxic chemicals poisoning the air.

Several firefighters were killed and at least 17 were still missing, AFP reported.

Below is the exchange between the unnamed firefighter and his friend on the messaging app. A screenshot of the unverified chat (left) has gone viral, with thousands of shares on social media.

Firefighter WeChat message

1:48 am

Fireman: Are you here bro?

Friend: Here, Here. What happened?

1:52 a.m.

Fireman: My phone can't get any calls out. Gangzi just passed away.He died, He died.

1:53 a.m.

Friend: Are kidding me? Where are you?

Fireman: I'm in the car to Tanku… Tanggu

Friend: Please call me right now.

Fireman: I'm wearing all my gear, I'm the only person with a phone.

Friend: Then please call me immediately tomorrow when you get home.

Fireman: If I don't come back, My dad is your dad. Remember to visit my mum's grave.

Friend: OK, your dad is my dad. Please take care.

Chinese state-run TV channel CCTVAmerica later reported that the fireman survived.

Separately, a firefighter was pulled alive yesterday from the rubble.

Mr Zhou Ti, 19, was treated for chest injuries at a hospital in Tianjin and was in stabe condition, the city government said on a verified account on social media site Weibo.

A photo attached to the post showed Mr Zhou lying on a hospital bed, his eyes closed, with reddish splotches over most of his face and a net bandage on his head.

The young man was one of more than 1,000 firefighters who were sent to a burning hazardous goods storage facility at the northern port.

Officials said Mr Zhou could not recall when he reached the scene and it was not clear if he was among the first responders who were caught in the giant blasts, or if he arrived some time later.

UNPREPARED

The firefighters initially sent to the scene were "investigating and testing" the area and their reinforcement were arriving when the first blast hit "all of a sudden", said Mr Zhou Tian, head of the Tianjin firefighting bureau, at a briefing yesterday.

"The firefighters were at the centre of the explosion and were unprepared," he added.

Commentators on social media condemned the handling of the blaze and the number of victims among emergency responders.

"Why let young firefighters who have no experience go to the scene?" asked one Weibo post.

Others questioned the reporting standard of China's state-controlled media and the stress on rescue efforts when tragedy strikes.

"Every time a disaster happens, state media always spread heroic acts," the poster wrote.

"In the end, people are touched by these stories. But nobody asks the cause of the accident to explore the truth."

The Southern Weekly newspaper, which sometimes takes a more independent stance, quoted a fireman on its website on Thursday saying that fire crew hosed water at the blaze for more than 10 minutes before the blast.

No one had warned them of the risk of dangerous chemicals that would react violently with water. The report was later taken down from the newspaper's website.


This article was first published on Aug 15, 2015.
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