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A Spirit That Cannot Be Crushed - for Bank of China Staff in 5.12 Disaster


"Our building collapsed!"

It was around 14:20 on May 12, the head of Bank of China Mianzhu Sub-branch saw the most dreadful scene in his life. Just when he walked out of the office building, with a huge rumble, the seven-story building collapsed suddenly, stirring up a cloud of dust and turning into a pile of three-meter wreckage.

Greatly shocked, he called the Branch office but found all the communications was interrupted.

He wasted no time in sending a driver to Deyang Branch to tell what had happened, while calling out the others in the yard for rescuing. He knew that his colleagues and customers, a total of over 20 people, were under the wreckage of crossbeams, floor plates, cement blocks and file cabinets, where the office building stood just a minute ago.

He and others then, with bare hands and all strength, started pulling aside cement plates ...

At 15:15, when Xiang Qianyou, President of the Deyang Branch, was dispatching staff in front of the branch's office building to collect information about the sub-branches hit by the earthquake, a car rushed in and stopped before him with the driver shouting,"President, our building collapsed!"

The same occurred to the office building of Dujiangyan Sub-branch with more than 20 staff and customers buried.

"Rescue them at any cost!"

Shocked at the news, Xiang Qianyou soon cleared up his mind. At 15:18, after transferring his work to the deputy president, Xiang together with the other management members and some middle-level management staff rushed towards Mianzhu. A general headquarters for earthquake disaster relief was set up on the way with Xiang as the interim general commander to instruct five groups, namely, rescue group, logistic group, family console group, coordination and liaison group and funeral arrangement group.

Setting out several principles for rescue after Xiang and his groups reached Mianzhu Sub-branch at 16:00, all groups jumped into action. It was shortly after the earthquake hit the area, when the government hadn't enough time to organize rescue equipment, staff and specialists, Bank of China's rescue team started a battle against death, using their own strength to save their colleagues and customers by hands or shovel.

Thus began Mianzhu Sub-branch's self-rescue in heartbreaking cries and clash of cement blocks.

It was also the first organization that started self-rescue in the city.

However, imagine how difficultly the rescue went on! Under the constant threat from aftershocks and the possible collapse of surrounding buildings, and with no tools nor equipment, the rescue team worked on the ruins with bare hands in the pouring rain, in the hope of saving their colleagues and customers…

At 19:30, Du Shiqing, Secretary of the Discipline Inspection Commission of Sichuan Branch, arrived on the scene and joined rescue direction work after conveying the requirement of "saving staff and customers at any costs" on behalf of the Party Committee of Sichuan Branch.

At around 20:00, under the coordination of Sichuan Branch, other rescue forces like Deyang Armed Police and Suining Fire Department reached the scene for rescue, also arrived were rescue equipment such as freight elevators, excavating machines and crushers dispatched by China Railway Erju (Second) Co., Ltd. and China Railway No. 8 Engineering Group Co., Ltd. Led by Du Shiqing and Xiang Qianyou, the rescue team used life detector to search for life evidence and locate victims under the wreckage with dogs. With the information provided by the survivors regarding the situation beneath the ruins, the rescue team drill holes at target points for accurate rescue, thus gaining precious time for life saving.

At 22:30, the first staff was rescued;

At 22:35, the second;

By 3:00 early morning, another five had been rescued...

The rescue efforts then came to a halt due to the complexity of the ruin structure, the unceasing aftershocks and abominable weather conditions, while the rescue members were torn by anxiety as time is life.

Nonetheless, despite all the risks and dangers, their faith stood strong - "No matter how hard it is, no one will be abandoned!" They were determined to fight death and to save their colleagues and customers from the deadly ruins.

The rain continued pouring, yet all rescue members, including the management and common staff, as well as their families, stayed by the scene. Utterly exhausted and hungry with arms and legs bruised or bleeding, they rested shortly beside the ruins and jumped back into the rescue the moment they heard there was life evidence.

Along with arduous work finally came a miracle: a staff of Mianzhu Sub-branch was successfully saved on the morning of May 15, after being buried for three days and three nights.

The painstaking self-rescue lasted for 100 hours at Mianzhu Sub-branch till 20:00 on May 16, when all buried people were found. This also made Mianzhu Sub-branch the first to finish self-rescue in the city.

According to the media report, the government highly praised Mianzhu Sub-branch's self-rescue operation for "the highest survival rate, the fastest site clearing, the swiftest response and the most efficient organization".

To this day, no rescue team member wants to recall that 100-hour battle against death, which is full of tears and blood and self-sacrifice.

During this 100 hours, although the total 23 buried were saved out and seven of them survived, it had the highest survival rate among its kind in Mianzhu city. Much affected, Xiang Qianyou said, "There are three contribution factors if our rescue was said to be efficient, namely the full support from the head office and the provincial branch, Bank of China's caring and never-give-up spirit and efficient coordination and the rational search and rescue plan."

"During the rescue process, Bank of China staff at all levels, with great and careful efforts, carried out efficient and effective self-rescue, gaining precious time for life saving, which reflects Bank of China's value of respecting staff and lives", said Zhou Tianjun, Deputy President of Sichuan Branch, who was one of the directors of the rescue team.

These are words from deep inside. Upon hearing the news, the head office held a leadership meeting to form an emergency plan for rescue relief. Early in the morning at 1:00 on May 13, Xiao Gang, Chairman of Bank of China, Li Zaohang, Deputy President of the bank, Sun Changji, Vice Chairman of Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited, together with six department managers reached Dujiangyan and Mianzhu sub-branches to give advise on rescue work. In the pouring rain, Xiao Gang said, "Whatever it takes and no matter how difficult it will be, we will not give up on anyone!" Li Lihui, President of the branch, who was then studying at the Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C., gave instructions on the rescue work every day, other head office officials were also paying close attention to the rescue progress. Sichuan Branch also received many consolation letters and donations from departments of the head office as well as from other branches at home and abroad, which brought them great encouragement. On May 22, Liu Mingkang, President of the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC), accompanied by Bank of China Deputy President Zhu Ming, arrived at Anxian, Mianzhu and Dujiangyan sub-branches to console the staff. President Li Zhaohui, Secretary Zhang Lin and other department directors arrived at the earthquake-hit branches on May 26 for post-disaster reconstruction in particular, visited staff and made condolence call.

In the aftershocks of the earthquake, provincial branch officials went back into the office building to find out all outlets' situation through real-time monitoring network. After identifying the quake-stricken branches, an emergency plan including the rescue strategy was formed and four deputy officials of the branches and several department managers were dispatched to Dujiangyan and Mianzhu for rescue work. Sichuan Branch achieved many "firsts" in this disaster: the first to identify quake-stricken branches, the first to dispatch provincial branch officials for on-site instructions, the first to start rescue work and to dispatch specialists and rescue equipments to the disaster area, the first to receive disaster relief order and on-site instructions from the head office, as well as earthquake supplies from other branches under the coordination of the head office.

These "firsts" prove Bank of China Group's core value of giving the highest respect to staff's life. At 2:00 on May 13, Chairman Xiao Gang and his team came to the ruin to direct rescue work and visited the families of the staff while walking among the dangerous buildings that might collapse any time without worrying about their own safety. On May 26, President Li Lihui arrived at the ruin scene a second time, placing a wreath with tears in memory of the staff victims. All these manifest the humanity of Bank of China's culture.

"I'm a staff member from Bank of China!"

"I was accompanying a customer downstairs. Just when we reached the corner of the second floor, we heard the noise of something crashing and falling down and before we knew what was going on, we fell into darkness," recalled Fu Baizhang, director of general management department of Mianzhu Sub-branch, who was still terrified, "I didn't know we were hit by an earthquake and I could barely move except for my two arms…"

Thanks to the small space built by the two cement plates falling over him, he survived after staying under the ruins for eight hours long. At around 22:30 on May 12, he was the first to be rescued at Mianzhu Sub-branch.

What had he done during this eight hour battle against death?

"I knew there were several customers near me, but I didn't know how many, they were all in panic and the customer nearest to me was crying out loudly. I told them 'I am a staff member from Bank of China and we need to calm down since the bank and the government would come to save us soon. How many of you can still move?'" Four replied in faint voices.

"I am a staff member from Bank of China and we need to calm down" - as simple as it is, these words eased the nerves of the four customers and they stopped crying to save their energy. Pulling aside debris in his way and using all his strength, Fu Baizhang moved to his nearest customer whose legs were wedged by the floor plate and bleeding badly. He tried to tear his shirt to stop the bleeding yet failed since he couldn't gather any strength in his wounded hand (it was found out later that his left palm was pierced). With the customer's help, they finally untied the waistband to wrap the injured legs. Putting aside his own safety, Fu Baizhang kept sending out messages regarding their locations while encouraging the customers during this eight hours, playing a great part in the final survival of all four customers.

After being rescued and receiving treatment in hospital, despite other people's concerns, he returned to the ruins at daybreak the next day, saying: "I could tell accurate locations since I know about the beneath." Time and again, he used the torch to search the place where the excavating machine was going to work for fear that it might injure the people buried, or damage the body.

Rescue work was also carried out at Dujiangyan Sub-branch. Some staff already escaped when the building fell but rushed back to save their customers buried in the ruins. After carrying out a female VIP customer, Zeng Qiang, director of the sub-branch's security department, went back to help other customers evacuate. He, together with other rescue members, used their bodies to protect customers from falling debris while evacuating. The saved customer later on said gratefully: "It was because Bank of China staff put their lives at risk that mine was saved."

On the afternoon of May 26, President Li Lihui was touched by the following video—

The surveillance video of Sichuan Branch recorded what happened when the disaster came at provincial outlets and sub-branches in earthquake areas: During this three minute long footage, the image was shaking badly. It could be seen that the counter staff calmly packed up cash boxes and account books before they evacuated in order and the officials were always the last to leave. Wuhou Sub-branch staff Wang Bing was handling a cash deposit of RMB 400,000 for a customer upon the occurrence of the earthquake. She quickly proceeded with the transaction while comforting the customer, "It will be ok, just crouch down before the counter, cover your head with your arms and I will complete your transaction." She didn't exit until all procedures were completed, which was very touching.

How lovely our staff and colleagues are! Facing life and death, she chose the latter for the credibility of the bank. The earthquake only lasted for two or three minutes, it would only have taken her less than a minute to rush out, yet she stayed for three minutes during the intense shaking to complete the transaction during which time the customer was crouching before the counter.

The business hall of the provincial branch was shaking greatly during the earthquake. In a climate of terror and chaos, customers at the counter were rushing out, leaving behind their bank cards, passbooks or cash. Trying to stay calm, bank staff quickly picked up what customers left behind, placed them in the cash boxes before leaving. After the strong shock and under danger of aftershocks, they returned to verify the documents and gave back to the owners, who where still in shock.

"I am a staff member from Bank of China!" These simple words surely carry a lot of weight! They convey a message of responsibility to the public and of friendship among the colleagues.

After pulling aside overlapping reinforcing steel and cement precast slabs, rescue members at Dujiangyan Sub-branch were greatly impacted by the scene: with his back badly smashed by the cement crossbeam, a male victim, who wasn't really strongly-built, was covering tightly a woman with his own body. The man was called Zhang Yu, who was the relationship manager of the sub-branch, and the woman who was saved was the director of the sub-branch's financial department. It could be told that the moment the building collapsed, Zhang Yu threw himself onto the woman to protect her from the falling crossbeam.

"Love and support one another" is the culture of Bank of China, "self-sacrifice" is the Bank of China spirit. Staff Yang Zhendong, Wang Jiayu, Tang Yulan and Feng Xiaolin were operating transactions at Mianzhu Sub-Branch when the earthquake hit, and they were buried as the building fell. Wang Jiayu passed out, and when she woke up there was only darkness. She found out there were three other people alive nearby, but except Feng Xiaolin, Yang Zhendong and Tang Yulan were both badly injured. Yang Zhendong's head was pressed by a heavy rock, Yang made several attempts to free himself from the rock, suffering from enormous pain, Wang Jiayu, together with other two staff helped remove the rock finally...

They could almost smell death in the darkness, yet knowing that Bank of China would not leave them behind, they maintained hope, encouraging and comforting each other. To cheer themselves up, Wang Jiayu made a proposal: "How about we sing a song— Unity is Strength?" Hearing their voice filled with pain and yet confidence, the rescue team was even more anxious.

Another few hours flew by, Yang Zhendong murmured, "I probably will not make it…my wife is pregnant…" upon hearing this, all started to cry. Holding his hands, Wang Jiayu comforted him, "Please stay strong, the bank will come to our rescue soon! You are going to be a dad, just hold on, we will make it!" Dragging her wedged leg along, she tried to move near Yang Zhendong to warm him up while Feng Xiaolin also moved close to him to mouth feed him water sent by the rescue team. Even so, they could still feel his body turning cold, and after ten hours' rescue efforts, all the others, apart from Yang Zhendong, were saved...

"The earthquake could ruin our buildings, yet not our spirit; it could alter our fate, yet not our faith", the official of Sichuan Branch said so.

It is true! In the adversity brought by disaster, we saw a most beautiful flower blossoming, a flower of the spirit and culture of Bank of China!

Xiao Gang, Chairman of Bank of China, rushed to earthquake-stricken Sichuan Branch to give instructions on rescue and relief work.


Li Lihui, President of Bank of China, attended the signing ceremony in Sichuan, to provide a credit line of RMB 30 billion to Dongfang Electric Corporation for post-disaster reconstruction.

A banner reading "Go, Beijing! Stay Strong, Wenchuan!" was held by Fujian Longyan Branch during the torch relay.

Earthquake-relief supplies organized by Bank of China in Xi'an and Chongqing were delivered to Sichuan.

Staff of Bank of China's Dongfeng Road Sub-branch in Cangzhou City, Hebei Province were working extra hours, calculating earthquake-relief donations from people of all walks of life.

The communists from Shangdong Heze Branch were donating "special party membership dues" to disaster-hit areas.

"Banks on the move" were set up by Bank of China in Sichuan Mianzhu to meet public's urgent financial needs.

Staff from Malaysia Branch were making donations for Sichuan earthquake relief.

"Candlelight memorial ceremony" was held at Guangdong Branch in memory of the victims of the Wenchuan earthquake.

"Tent banks" were built by Dujiangyan Sub-branch of Bank of China Sichuan Branch to provide financial services to public in the disaster area.

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