Warning: This video contains images which some viewers may find distressing
The pipe was not wide enough for the firefighter’s hand to reach down to get to the newborn baby trapped inside. But, after a two-hour rescue operation, as shown in this series of startling pictures, “Baby No 59” was miraculously retrieved from a section of sewage pipe from beneath a toilet in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang at the weekend.
Emergency crews were called to an apartment block in the city of Jinhua on Saturday afternoon after residents alerted authorities to the sound of a baby crying. What they discovered when they arrived has sent shockwaves across China.
Firefighters found a newborn baby boy that had been flushed down a lavatory headfirst and became lodged in the sewerage pipe. They had to remove an L-shaped section of pipe, 10cm in diameter, and take it to a hospital, where doctors carefully used pliers to cut it open to release the infant. Video footage of the dramatic two-hour rescue was broadcast widely on television news bulletins and websites. Named Baby No 59 after the number of his hospital incubator, he was said to be in a stable condition last night.
Jinhua residents who watched the rescue footage arrived at the hospital with contributions of nappies, baby clothes and powdered milk.
Reports about the baby’s parents varied last night. According to The Jinhua Daily newspaper, police have questioned a 20-year-old unmarried mother who lives on the fourth floor of the block of flats.
One police officer suggested that the mother concealed her pregnancy and the baby fell into the toilet when she unexpectedly gave birth. Other reports said the child was a few days old when the mother accidentally dropped it into the lavatory.
“The woman was on the scene during the entire rescue process... and admitted [she was the mother] when we asked her,” the police officer, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Agence France-Presse news agency. He said his colleagues would continue to investigate whether the mother “had any malicious intentions” before deciding if charges should be filed against her. Police had no information about the baby’s father.
It is not uncommon for babies to be abandoned in China, which has imposed a one-child policy for more than three decades. Couples can face fines if they violate the policy. But this latest case has led to widespread soul-searching about the country’s moral state on Sina Weibo, the microblogging site which is China’s version of Twitter. One user, Weixian de Shuozhuo, wrote: “This kind of thing makes me speechless. Since I was young, I’ve seen deserted babies on trash heaps. It seems that in Chinese people’s eyes, throwing a baby away is not an evil thing.”
Others were more sympathetic. “I feel sad for the [baby’s] mum. At the same time I am startled by the miracle of life. I hope this child will grow up as someone who achieves greatness,” wrote Gui da Shushu.