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Daily Drip

Robots Aid Henan Rescue Operations in Wake of Catastrophic Flooding

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Authorities launched rescue operations in Central China after extreme rainfall triggered catastrophic flooding in Henan province.

The raging floodwaters trapped hundreds of people in buildings, cars, and on public transport – with terrifying videos circulating online of commuters stuck on a subway train in neck-deep water.

Emergency services and volunteers are working overtime to extract people who are trapped and to ensure the public’s safety, and technology is playing a significant role in the search and rescue efforts.

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Authorities deployed 118 ‘Dolphin No.1‘ surface rescue robots from Zhuhai Yunzhou Intelligent Technology to aid professional water rescue teams on their missions.

The Dolphin No.1 robot is a powered lifebuoy that resembles a rubber lifeboat.

Though small (weighing only 13 kilograms), it is indeed mighty. It can carry loads of up to 150 kilograms while also dragging three people to safety. The robot can be thrown into the water from anywhere and is remotely controlled, making it ideal for rescuing people from hard-to-reach spaces.

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In addition to Dolphin No.1, rescue teams have been using an amphibious drone dubbed ‘Nezha.’

With the ability to fly and swim, the drone can lead ground personnel to citizens trapped by the water. It can also dive underwater, making it the ultimate tool to conduct preliminary assessments of the environment.

The severity of the flooding meant that rescuers needed all the help they could get, and the addition of these robots has so far proved fruitful — paving the way for them to be introduced as essentials in the toolkit of China’s search and rescue personnel.

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While high-tech tools have gotten much of the attention, more familiar gadgets have also been aiding rescue efforts.

Many who were trapped by the rising waters — such as those on Zhengzhou’s flooded subway carriages — used their mobile phones to update emergency services on their real-time situations.

This communication assisted rescue teams to adequately prepare and plan for what they would encounter when they entered the subway system — making missions safer and more efficient.

Online discussions about the robotic rescue support were seen on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo, with nearly 25 million views on the hashtag for surface rescue robots at the time of writing. Most netizens cheered the high-tech deployment, and some called for more support for rural areas.

“This is great! Rescue missions depend not only on love and courage but also on professional skills and science and technology,” wrote one commenter on Weibo.

“I hope that the rescue [team] can also pay more attention to small cities like Jiaozuo, Anyang and Hebi, the precipitation in these places has exceeded Zhengzhou,” wrote another. “Human, material, and financial resources there are insufficient … and rescue materials are also in short supply. I hope that more professional rescue teams can be sent there.”

Additional reporting by Lu Zhao

Click here for more of our coverage on the Henan floods.

Cover image via Pixabay

Chloe Yorke
    Chloe was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Shanghai and San Francisco. She is currently studying Chinese at Durham University in the UK and is passionate about Chinese art and culture.