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Cinema that sheltered people during floods reopens

By SHI BAOYIN in Zhengzhou and ZHAO RUIXUE | China Daily | Updated: 2021-10-11 09:44

A cinema in Zhengzhou, Henan province, that sheltered hundreds of people trapped by severe flooding on July 20 has been inundated with messages of support from netizens since it reopened on Sept 1, following a monthlong closure due to the pandemic.

"We've received a lot of messages from netizens, including some unable to go home that day who spent the night at our cinema," said Yang Zhen, manager of the Oriental Jiahe Cinema, which is located on the 14th floor of a mall on Huayuan Road in Zhengzhou's business district.

One of them bought four tickets, one in each corner of the hall. "He didn't show up. I guess he just bought tickets to support us, and saved the middle part for other ticket buyers," Yang said.

Many netizens have commented below articles about the cinema's conduct, expressing their best wishes and support.

"We will bring our child to your cinema to watch a movie in such a nice place filled with love," a web user in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region commented.

Torrential rain on July 20 paralyzed Zhengzhou's public transportation, including its subway, and caused widespread flooding.

The cinema was forced to close at 4 pm that day due to the downpour. After finishing work, Yang rushed to the subway at 6 pm, hoping to catch a train home, but he was told that service was suspended.

Like many others, Yang could only wait at the subway gate. It was still pouring, and roads were already flooded.

Two hours later, feeling cold and hungry, he decided to return to the Oriental. He added a passenger stranded at the subway as a contact and said that if the cinema could be used as a shelter, he would call and let them know.

"More and more people were stranded at the subway gate, including children, the elderly and pregnant women. They looked so helpless," he said.

While wading through floods to get to the cinema, Yang secured permission from Li Jie, the cinema's chairman, to allow those stranded to spend the night at the cinema.

"He told me to open for free as long as conditions allowed," Yang said.

After climbing the stairs to the 14th floor because the mall's elevators had been turned off, the exhausted man was heartened to discover that the cinema still had power.

As people began to arrive, the mall's operators turned on an elevator to take people to the 14th floor. Yang also prepared hot water and snacks for them.

"By midnight, there were about 600 people in the cinema," he said.

To let more people know they could seek shelter, Yang sent messages to several WeChat groups, saying the cinema could take in around 1,200 people.

"More people came with their trousers rolled up to the thigh and their shoes in their hands," he said.

At 2 am on July 21, around 1,000 people unable to make it home arrived at the cinema.

"As a member of the Communist Party of China, it was my duty to help as many as possible," Yang said.

The cinema was forced to close on July 31 for a month due to an outbreak of COVID-19.

Some 4,000 square meters in size, with 15 employees, the cinema costs 350,000 yuan ($54,145) a month to maintain. No employees were laid off during the closure.

Instead, employees volunteered to help with citywide nucleic acid testing, maintaining orders and registering the information of those coming for tests.

"We are one big family," Yang said. "When one of us is in trouble, we must all shoulder the burden together."

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