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CHINA TIMES, ORIENTAL MORNING POST, SINA (China)
LANZHOU - The Yellow River has no lid, why don’t you jump in...!? For Chinese who live along the river, this old expression is used when an argument heats up.
But in the last few days, with reports by the Oriental Morning Post that hundreds of corpses are floating in the famous river, it all has taken on a different meaning.
According to the Chinese daily, over the past 50 years the 80 kilometers of the Yellow River upstream of Lanzhou, in the northwest rural Gansu Province, has seen more than 10,000 floating dead. “Between April and September this year, there were on average at least 20 corpses being salvaged each month,” a policeman of the Lanzhou Water Police Station told the paper. This is not counting the other corpses which are salvaged by the local public security, and by a few private workers who do the job to make money.
“In the summer when there’s flooding, there are more corpses. I have had the experience of finding more than 20 corpses in a day,” said Wei, one of the veterans river workers known to locals as the Yellow River Ghost Man.
In the past few years, an increasing number of corpses, about 200 to 300 more each year, has overwhelmed local sanitation authorities.
So who are these people floating downstream? A certain number are flood victims, but a study carried out in the 1990’s suggested that 85% are suicides, 10% are people dead from accidents of various types, and 5% are murder victims. Mostly they are between 16 and 45 years old at their death. Murder victims tend to be tied up, or sealed in a sack, or simply have their throats cut, according to the China Times.
The bodies are frequently discovered trapped in a thick raft of floating garbage upstream of a dam. If they pass through the dam they are dismembered by the turbines. The raft of garbage is a source of revenue for scavengers, but when they find a body which can be identified it’s a good payday. Relatives pay good money to recover the body of a loved one.
One scavenger, Wei Zhijun, says “When I find a corpse I tie it to a rock or a tree by the river. If in three weeks no one has identified it I let it back into the river.” Thirty percent of the bodies found are never identified according to Lanzhou City Water Station statistics.
The river water is a direct source of drinking water for many of the people living along the river, and the bodies are a serious form of pollution.
Even the Lanzhou City Water Station puts unidentified corpses back into the river. The local civil service departments bury around 60 unidentified bodies a year. The burial cost is increasing and suitable land is at a premium. What to do with the flood of corpses is becoming a real headache for the dam authorities, the water station, the civil service, and the public security organs.
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