BEIJING – A newborn boy is recovering in a Chinese hospital after being rescued from a sewage pipe below a squat toilet by firefighters, who sawed off an L-shaped section and then delicately dismantled it to free the trapped baby.
A tenant heard the baby's cries in the public restroom of a residential building in Zhejiang province in eastern China on Saturday and notified authorities, according to the state-run news site Zhejiang News. A video of the two-hour rescue that followed was broadcast widely on Chinese news programs and websites late Monday and Tuesday.
The child — named Baby No. 59 from the number of his hospital incubator — was reported safe in a nearby hospital, and news of the rescue prompted an outpouring from strangers who came to the hospital with diapers, baby clothes, powdered milk and offers to adopt the child.
The baby weighed 2.8 kilograms (6.2 pounds) and still had his placenta attached to his body, reports said. His heart rate was low and there were grazes on his head and limbs, but he was largely unscathed, according to Zhejiang Online, the province's official news portal.
It was not immediately clear how the baby ended up in the toilet, but police said they were treating the case as an attempted homicide. The Pujiang county police bureau said on its official microblog account that the boy's mother has been located and that an investigation is ongoing, but gave no further details.
A duty officer at the Pujiang Public Security Bureau reached by phone late Tuesday said he had no information and that staffers involved in the investigation had left for the day.
On China's popular Twitter-like microblogs, some users expressed pity for the child and horror at his ordeal. Most bloggers speculated that the child had been abandoned and dumped by his parents down the toilet.
The landlord of the building in Pujiang county told Zhejiang News that it was unlikely the birth took place in the restroom because there was no evidence of blood and she was not aware of any recent pregnancies among her tenants.
The baby was stuck in an L-shaped portion of the sewage pipe with a diameter of about 10 centimeters (3 inches).
The video shows rescuers sawing off a section of the pipe along a ceiling that apparently was just below the restroom. The rescuers then rushed that section of pipe to a hospital, where firefighters and medics alternately used pliers and saws to rip apart the pipe and free the baby.
Despites the offers to adopt Baby No. 59, a doctor at the hospital said the boy would be handed over to social services if his parents did not claim him, Zhejiang News said.
In China, reports of babies being abandoned are common and fuel public anger against a strict one-child policy that imposes huge fines on parents who violate the rules. The policy has been blamed as a factor causing parents to abandon unwanted children, though they are usually baby girls whose parents want sons due to a traditional preference for male heirs.