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Mother of Baby No 59 found in sewage pipe in China was in crowd watching as he was cut free

Unmarried woman said she could not afford an abortion after child’s father denied responsibility

The unmarried mother of a newborn baby boy rescued from a sewage pipe beneath a squat toilet in eastern China at the weekend has reportedly told state media she had felt forced to hide her pregnancy because she was afraid her parents would disown her if they found out.

The tale of “Baby No 59”, named after the incubator he has been occupying in hospital in the city of Jinhua in Zhejiang province, has horrified China after pictures emerged of the two-hour rescue staged by emergency services at the weekend to retrieve the baby from the 10cm-wide  sewage pipe.

Residents of the apartment block in the Pujiang neighbourhood, in which the 22-year-old woman was living, alerted emergency services after they heard the infant’s cries coming from the communal toilet. The baby suffered bruising and scratches, but is believed to be recovering well. Well-wishers have delivered baby milk formula, nappies and toys to the hospital where he is being treated.

According to Jinhua-based Zhezhong News, the woman became pregnant after a casual relationship, but the father denied responsibility and she could not afford to have an abortion.

She is reported to have hidden her pregnancy by binding her belly with tight cloth and wearing loose clothes.

State media reports that the mother entered the bathroom when she began experiencing contractions on 25 May. After a long while, the baby was born and slipped into the toilet bowl.

She said she tried to grab the child, but she couldn’t retrieve it. She then cleaned up the bathroom and told the landlord that there was a baby in the sewerage. Police are still investigating whether she acted “maliciously”.

According to doctors in the hospital, quoted by local media, the baby was born two months prematurely. He weighed 2.8kg and his heart rate was low, but he emerged from the ordeal largely unscathed.

The mother is reported to have confessed to police a couple of days later when they asked her to undergo a medical check-up after searching the room she rented in the apartment building, and found toys and blood-stained toilet paper, according to the state-run Zhejiang News website. Dramatic social change, with millions of young migrants leaving the countryside to work in the cities, has led to a kind of sexual revolution in China in recent years, with young men and women often engaging in unprotected sex. Abortions have become increasingly common, though remain taboo, and it is not uncommon for babies to be found abandoned.