Chongqing- The summer of 2022 is destined to become an indelible memory for the Chongqing people, a summer where we were tested beyond measure and a time we came together to adapt and overcome. Long known as a furnace of China, the summer of 2022 has made Chongqing the white-hot pinnacle of the unrelenting Chinese heatwave, up to 45 °C by day and remaining in the high 30s overnight. This has brought about cascading problems, including dried-up rivers, insufficient hydroelectric power, drought, and forest fires in 9 districts. Add to that a renewed epidemic outbreak, and the situation is difficult and complex. But the people’s spirit is resolute and indomitable.
What I’ve seen is that when things get hard, Chongqing rises to the challenge. Without complaint, the city has moved to save electricity, reducing hours for shopping malls and construction, ensuring critical power is safe for residents, hospitals, and schools, and diverting water to where it’s needed by any means necessary. To fight the fire, professionals and volunteers have come forward and given all their strength. We battle the epidemic as one family, cooperating to overcome any adversity.
Exhausted, sweaty, and tired, we rest but do not give up. Hemingway said, ‘A man can be destroyed but not defeated,’ because we lose the fight only by quitting. The army has come to help fight the fires, and cold weather on the horizon promises much-needed relief from scalding temperatures by the weekend. It may be the worst continuous hot weather since 1961, but every second we fight on brings us closer to victory. The night may seem dark, but when the first licks of dawn rise, Chongqing is still standing, strong as ever. Perhaps stronger.
“Don’t fear suffering,” said actor Ethan Hawke, in a moment of stoic sage advice. “For the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire. The facts are always friendly. Without a little agony, none of us would bother to learn a thing. The earth has to be tilled before the seeds can be planted.”
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth”
When former eSports champion and current Chess master and instructor Joamie Lin (林九米), 26, found out Shapingba district was locked down to control the spread of COVID-19 in Chongqing, he didn’t think twice: he suited up in a hazmat suit and volunteered to protect his community.
“So it’s been going quite well. My job is to deliver supplies within the building and assist doctors with their routine COVID tests daily,” said the former University of British Columbia, Canada, computer science student. “It gets pretty hot in the suit in this weather, but otherwise, it’s been quite rewarding.” He leads doctors through his complex, knocks on doors, and asks residents to provide their codes while doctors do their tests—all in the suit. “I also deliver supplies, mostly daily food, water, and such door-to-door. People order an unnecessary amount of bottled water and beers,” he laughs. “That’s so heavy to carry around, and the suit is required at all times, all part of our safety procedure.”
When asked about positive cases – 23 of the 40 cases for today were found in Shapingba, he said, “Yes, there was one red case. We moved three floors of people to quarantine as a precaution. But I’ve heard they’re living in a hotel with delicious food. Spirits are high. People are a bit worried, but they have the doctors and us to reassure them, so they are alert but not anxious.” When asked why he decided to spend his days sweating in a hazmat suit instead of relaxing and playing games in front of his air conditioner, he said. “Honestly, I just wanted to help. I was going to sit at home and play video games anyways; I thought I might as well contribute to the community and be helpful. ‘Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth,’ I remember Muhammad Ali said this.” Ali, the greatest fighter of all time, urged us to help others pay our way through life. Pay it forward. And fight we do, on all fronts.
Volunteers win the hearts of the people while racing necessary supplies to the firefight
Meanwhile, a local student at Chongqing University of Science and Technology, a 24-year-old motorcycle enthusiast and social media influencer who goes by the internet moniker, ‘Whale,’ has had a heck of a day. Along with hundreds of others, he has been helping deliver supplies such as fire extinguishers, mineral water, heat-relieving medicines, gloves, rubber shoes, chainsaws, and other supplies up dirt roads that are inaccessible to larger vehicles. In 40-44 °C weather, they ride under direct sunlight for 20-30 minutes each way. Cars can not access these remote areas, so their job is essential, but it’s physically exhausting. Sweat and dust cover the riders in thick layers of grey, and when a rider falls over or wipes out due to exhaustion, local villagers help them back up, repack their baskets and packs full of fire fighting gear, and get them back on their way. Whale injured his foot while driving too close to the wildfires and was treated at a hospital and released. “I must continue to fight!” he cried and returned to the front lines.
A viral video of a Western foreign guest on a motorcycle carrying a chainsaw and other goods has been circulating today, showing community spirit goes beyond Chinese locals and includes all who call Chongqing their home.
Artificial rain-enhancing planes arrive in Chongqing to quench the fires
To try to stop the fires from spreading to villages, other tactics are being employed, and in Beibei District, excavators spent the day digging a 100-meter-wide fire isolation zone to stop the fire in its tracks. The military has lent their assistance, and in the skies over the fire, artificial rain-enhancing planes arrived in Chongqing on August 23.
“Captain, I can still fight,” shouted Yao Yu after waking up after fainting from exhaustion. He’d been fighting the fire in Jieshi, Banan District, Chongqing City. The Chongqing Blue Sky Rescue Team dispatched 176 people from 6 detachments to emergency rescue, and 26-year-old Yao Yu was one of them.
According to reports, the main task of the blue sky rescue team was to establish a 60-meter-wide forest isolation belt from the foot of the mountain to the top of the hill to prevent the fire from continuing to spread. As the chain saw in the team, Yao Yu was the most critical officer for this job. Sawing trees and digging trenches over and over for 12 consecutive hours before passing out. They did not rest until the job was done.
Meanwhile, the high-temperature weather caused drought disasters in 778 towns (streets) in 36 districts and counties in our city, resulting in drought. Over one million people have been affected, but workers and volunteers race to bring water bottles and new pipelines to ensure all have drinking water. Of the 18 forest fires in the city, 13 of which have been extinguished so far, and the remaining five forest fires are being put down, with no casualties reported.
“Most mountain fires have been extinguished, the fire situation is generally under control, and there are no casualties,” said local representative Ran Jinhong. Thirteen fire sites had been extinguished, and five fire sites are still being put out.
By the principle of “counties and counties fight early and fight small, close to each other, and support each other at the municipal level,” as of August 23, the Municipal Emergency Management Bureau dispatched and coordinated professional emergency rescue teams, armed police officers and soldiers, fire rescue teams and militia at the urban level. A total of more than 15,000 people were dispatched, and a total of 8 helicopters were sent to fight the wildfire by combining air and ground.
Chongqing central districts conduct nucleic acid tests for all in 24hrs
While Chongqing fights to keep fresh water to all who need it and extinguish the mountain fires, another fire is igniting in Chongqing. This new COVID-19 outbreak has hit Chongqing’s core districts simultaneously. On August 24, the municipal administration ordered nucleic acid tests for all residents in central urban districts to control the quickly evolving pandemic situation.
Chongqing reported 40 new positive COVID-19 cases, 21 symptomatic and 19 unsymptomatic cases on August 23. The Shapingba District, where static management was enforced six days ago, reported 23 cases, over half of the 40 total. Also, new cases were detected in four more downtown areas, warning of the possibility of large-scale infection in an area of 10 million population. It was decided that a large-scale nucleic acid test would be conducted, including all residents in Chongqing’s nine urban center districts.
From midnight on August 24, all people in the region received an orange pop-up notification on their health QR code user interface. Certain public areas will be restricted to those with orange pop-up messages. When people completed one nucleic acid test on August 24, the orange pop-up notifications returned to a healthy green. Elderly, disabled, chronic disease patients, and special needs individuals would receive home visits for testing.
An iChongqing reporter observed during the day that several temporary testing locations had been set up on the sidewalks in Jiulongpo District. As the results roll in, certain smart lockdowns of XiaoQu (communities) and even entire districts will close temporarily to halt the spread of the virus outbreak, and most people in Chongqing have decided to stock up on necessities and bunker down until its once again under control.
“Strength through adversity. The strongest steel is forged by the fires of hell. It is pounded and struck repeatedly before it’s plunged back into the molten fire. The fire gives it power and flexibility, and the blows give it strength. Those two things make the metal pliable and able to withstand every battle it’s called upon to fight. (Savitar)” ― Sherrilyn Kenyon, in the novel Devil May Cry
Whether fire, drought, or a renewed outbreak, Chongqing people might be suffering, but they display unrelenting resilience, perseverance, and an indomitable spirit in times of trouble. As a community, we show humanity, kindness, and generosity as we work together to overcome any obstacles we face because we are strong enough to face any challenge. There’s strong, and then there’s Chongqing Strong, and with the challenges ahead of China and the West, Chongqing can serve as a paragon of virtue and community spirit to inspire the rest of us that (We > I) we are better together.