Cockle picker’s last phone call

This is really poignant.

A Chinese immigrant caught in a rising tide made a desperate cellphone call to his wife back home to tell her he was dying, moments before he drowned with 18 others while gathering shellfish in northwest Britain, a newspaper here reported on Wednesday.

Guo Binlong called his wife in the village of Zelang, near Fuqing in southeast China, as the tide rose around him while he was looking for cockles in the British town of Morecambe, said The Daily Telegraph.

“I am in great danger,” Guo said, according to the paper, which spoke to the relatives of the drowning victims in China. “I am up to my chest in water. Maybe I am going to die.”

As the water rose further, Guo, 29, a devout Christian, said: “Tell the family to pray for me. It’s too close. I am dying.”

A total of 19 died in the rising tide. According to the article Guo was paid $11-13 an hour. This conflicts with other articles I’d read, which cited far (and I mean really far) lower salaries for the Chinese immigrants.

The Discussion: 11 Comments

“…really poignant”: Agree totally.

I think we’re going to have to wait to find out what these people were actually earning. Like you, this is the highest figure I’ve seen. I’m sure it will all come out in court.

February 12, 2004 @ 10:42 am | Comment

I think the confusion has arisen because they were unlikely to be being paid by the hour – they were paid by the bag. Also the working hours varied according to the tide, and deductions were made from their money for accomodation and any other fees that the gangmasters could come up with. It’ll come out in court, but will it change Britain’s policy on migrant labour? That’s what I’ll pray for.

February 12, 2004 @ 10:57 am | Comment

Fiona, whatever the measurement (by the hour or by the bag) something is wildly off here. One article I read said the immigrants were being paid only a few dollars a day. And yet the fellow in this article, Guo, was able to send his parents 2,000 pounds a month (more than $2500, i think). In China that would make them a very comfortable family. Something is not right here.

February 12, 2004 @ 11:20 am | Comment

I haven’t been following this story, so I’m not understanding how it is these people died. Where are cockles usually found? In caves? Were these people under a closed-in pier or something? Were they weighed down by their equipment and apparel? How and why would a rising tide drown you?

Pardon my ignorance,


February 12, 2004 @ 4:31 pm | Comment

Kevin, you’ll find it all here — see the links in blue at the top, and read the superb post that sums it all up.

February 12, 2004 @ 4:44 pm | Comment

The tide in that area comes in very fast, and there are patches of quicksand throughout. Also, don’t forget that they were out there in February… those that didn’t drown outright probably succumbed to hypothermia.

Richard: according to the IHT article, Guo had sent £2000 home over six months — not per month.

February 12, 2004 @ 6:02 pm | Comment

Thanks Vaara. Sorry about that.

February 12, 2004 @ 7:24 pm | Comment

I was wondering if this story was getting any coverage outside the UK. I thought of writing an email to the Duck but never quite got around to it.

February 12, 2004 @ 8:09 pm | Comment

It’s been all over cable news and local newspapers because of the China angle.

February 12, 2004 @ 8:13 pm | Comment

Thanks for the info and links.


February 13, 2004 @ 3:19 pm | Comment

thanks for the post

August 24, 2004 @ 3:12 pm | Comment

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