Man of the mountain

Updated: 2013-05-23 05:36

By Deng Zhangyu (China Daily)

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 Man of the mountain

After patrolling the mountain, Luo Junhong returns to his village to feed the pigs and chickens of fellow villagers after the recent earthquake in Ya'an, Sichuan province. Deng Zhangyu / China Daily

Surveyor Luo Junhong risks his life on a daily basis to check for potential landslides on the sloops that surround his village. Deng Zhangyu reports from Ya'an, Sichuan.

Every day Luo Junhong patrols the mountain that rises up over his village, checking for potential geological disasters. It is a job that regularly sees the surveyor risk his life, but one he is happy to do to ensure the safety of his fellow villagers.

For the past nine years, Luo has been leaving his home in Jinghe village at 6 am to begin his ascent of the mountain. He walks about 5 km to the mountaintop and returns home at about 9 am. He repeats the same journey at least three times a day - morning, noon and evening.

He patrols the mountain all year-round, even during the Spring Festival.

"I have to observe carefully. If I find some cracks, I usually mark them and set up a pole. The next day I check it again to make sure there won't be a chance of landslides," says the experienced surveyor.

If it rains heavily, even if it's late at night, Luo will run to the mountain to check high-risk spots he marked earlier. If there is any sign of disaster, Luo will use a siren to alert the villagers at the foot of the hill.

His equipment on a rainy night includes a torch, a raincoat, a helmet, rain boots and a siren.

Jinghe village sits in a mountainous area in Yingjing county of Ya'an city in Sichuan province, where geological hazards such as quakes and landslides are common.

The magnitude-7 earthquake on April 20 reduced Luo's village to ruins. Most houses were damaged and are too dangerous to live in. Luo and his fellow villagers were evacuated to a temporary settlement not far from the mountain.

"Besides my daily patrol, now I have to help feed the pigs and chickens belonging to my fellow villagers. It's dangerous for villagers to feed the poultry," says 38-year-old Luo.

Man of the mountain

There were 25 families of 88 people evacuated from the mountain, leaving more than 20 pigs and some chickens in ramshackle houses.

"I feed the poultry twice a day. I know it's dangerous since the chances of aftershocks and geological hazards are huge," Luo says, explaining that he has to do so otherwise some elderly villagers would return to feed their pigs.

On May 7, Luo says he and three fellow villagers went to the mountain at 2 am to check dangerous spots when there was a sudden rainstorm.

One of his most dangerous moments happened in August 2010. It was 1 pm and Luo was at a meeting in the village when it suddenly started to rain.

"I ran to the mountain immediately and saw water pouring down the road," says the surveyor.

"I ran sideways down the mountain in two minutes and phoned my men to escape while running."

Luo volunteered to be a geological disaster surveyor for his village nine years ago. He says he was young and could run fast, so he didn't hesitate to be a surveyor when his village needed him. He also works as the village's accountant and became a Party member in 2005.

"We (surveyors) are trained four or five times every year. Our village has regular drills for geological hazards to teach people escape skills," Luo says.

Luo has two children and his wife worries about his job but still supports her husband. Every night when Luo has to patrol the mountain, she texts rather than calls him, because he might need to use the phone to tell villagers to escape.

Luo receives a salary from his village for his surveillance, but it is not a large sum. For the rainy season from May to October, he earns 500 yuan ($81) a month. For the rest of the year, he earns a monthly paycheck of 100 yuan. His job as a village accountant earns him 470 yuan a month.

Because of the mountainous terrain and frequent quakes, secondary geological disasters are common, so geological disaster surveyors like Luo are essential.

Shaba village in Tianquan county - about 45 km from Yingjing county - has four surveyors. Yang Xuexiang volunteered to join the group after the April 20 quake.

The 47-year-old was a farmer and now rides his motorbike everyday to patrol the 1-km road along the hill where his village is located.

Yang says he checks the road every three hours and takes shifts with his partner.

Man of the mountain

"We mainly focus on landslides because of the coming rainy season. Falling stones from the mountain are dangerous," says the new recruit.

Yang gets up at 4 am to start his daily patrols. His village has a population of about 600 people.

In Ya'an city where the earthquake recently hit, there are 946 new high-risk spots threatening 200,000 people, according to the information office of Ya'an government.

Each high-risk geological hazard is required to have two surveyors.

"Of course it's a risky job. But I never think about it that much. I simply want to protect my village and there must be people who take the job," says Luo. He looks at the mountain he has patrolled for nine years and smiles.

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(China Daily 05/23/2013 page 10)