Life Life

28/06/2021 - 08:48

The day that seems endless

When the bodies of the officers and soldiers who had lost their lives in an accident while approaching Rao Trang 3 Hydroelectric Power Plant were retrieved, we – reporters on duty at the intersection of Provincial Road 11B in Phong Xuan commune (Phong Dien district – 30km from Hue City center), were in deep confusion and grief.

The clicking sound of camera secretly resounded. While many locals were witnessing the scene with tears welled up in their eyes; some relatives of 13 officers and soldiers collapsed. It never occurred to us that we had to work in such an undesirable situation, though knowing that nothing was impossible, and that journalism involved being present at the site to bring the latest news to the public.

Reporters of press agencies interviewing Secretary of the Provincial Party Committee Le Truong Luu at the search area for missing victims at Rao Trang 3 Hydroelectric Power Plant.

It was the afternoon of October 15th, 2020 (two days after the fateful night) that all 13 officers and soldiers were confirmed dead in the process of approaching the site of Rao Trang 3 Hydroelectric Power Plant to rescue the missing workers.

At 2:30 p.m., the sky was overcast when the first ambulance escorted by the police car traveled at high speed from the direction of the mountain to the Provincial Road 11B. By professional instinct and through the evaluation of previous sources of information, we knew that it was the ambulance retrieving the first body among 13 officers and soldiers who lost their lives at Ranger Station 67, where the accident occurred to the member crews.

Many reporters were on duty at Phong Xuan intersection to receive the latest information, update images as soon as possible, and communicate with sources and colleagues working at other areas in connection with this intense search mission. Phong Xuan intersection is nearly 20km from the scene of Ranger Station 67. At that time, this single road was also blocked, allowing only functional forces on duty to enter.

Reporters of Thua Thien Hue Newspaper (first row) on duty at Rao Trang 3 Hydroelectric Power Plant

When the car retrieving the first body in the group of 13 officers and soldiers rushed out from the mountain, many fellow reporters who had waited beforehand at only hundreds of meters away from Phong Xuan intersection continuously pressed the shutter buttons of their cameras and video recorders on professional instinct.

When that first ambulance had not yet arrived at Military Medical Hospital 268, Hue City, the bulletin was widespread on electronic newspapers, making readers across the country emotional, but also relieved when the first body was found. From that moment, many newspapers immediately organized the live section to update information about the search for other 12 missing soldiers and officers. That afternoon duty seemed sorrowful, uneasy, and endless.

This search mission was not easy because the previous information and images showed us the site where 13 officers and soldiers lost their lives. They were buried deep under a very thick layer of rock, and the road leading to the site was severely damaged by landslide. Therefore, the search mission was considered an uneasy task despite a thorough discussion. Once the decision has been made, however, it should be done at all costs.

The moment the ambulances retrieving the bodies of 13 officers and soldiers who lost their lives on a rescue mission at Rao Trang 3 Hydroelectric Power Station making the reporters on duty that day sorrowful.

That day, most of the fellow reporters confirmed that all 13 sacrificed officers and soldiers would be found and retrieved out of the landslide area of ​​Ranger Station 67 on the night of October 15th, for the weather became more favorable at that time after many days of heavy rain. If not urgently, once the heavy rains returned, the flooded mountains would continue to erode, which would make the search more dangerous and difficult.

As expected, we received more information from other sources of news as time passed by. Alternately, the 2nd body was found, followed by the 3rd one, etc. At that time, we didn’t need to know specific information. Instead, we just hoped that the last number 13 could be reached, which meant that the last person was found and retrieved out of the cold land.

Each ambulance retrieving the bodies from inside the mountain to Provincial Road 11B took turns to head towards the city to prepare for death rituals. Information was constantly updated each time a body was found. We got mournful, but also relieved to know one thing for sure that the officers and solders who sacrificed their lives were returning in infinite and deep grief of their relatives, comrades, and People.

Until 7:30 p.m. on the same day, we all breathed a sigh of relief after receiving information about the last body of the 13 officers and soldiers. That night, it rained again.

“Never before have we worked in such a tragic situation. Floods and storms have caused Thua Thien Hue and the whole Central Region to struggle hard. How painful it is to hear that the brave soldiers have fallen while undertaking their duties,” said a young reporter among dozens of reporters after a day of working at Phong Xuan junction.

Among them, many reporters were mobilized from Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Da Nang, etc., to provide support to their fellows as soon as they received news of the incident. Most of the reporters working at this event were sorrowful and mournful when they had to type news and snap photos that from the bottom of their hearts they didn’t want to.

That night, beside the late lunch tray in the whistling wind of the mountains, reporters like us were still confused after a working day mixed with many emotions. But perhaps, everyone shared the same mood, feeling sorrowful and never wanting to face with news of such great grief and loss again.

Story: Nhat Minh - Photos: Vo Nhan - Phan Thanh