'There were scratch marks on the doors': woman’s horror lift death

By Richard van Rensburg
09 March 2016

It’s believed the victim succumbed to hunger and thirst after the technicians attending to the broken lift simply packed up and left on China’s New Year to go on holiday.

Getting stuck in a lift is bad enough, especially if you’re claustrophobic.

But a community was rocked recently by news that a woman trapped in a broken lift had died a slow, lonely death over several weeks.

She sustained injuries in her desperate struggle to escape – while the apparently negligent workmen who’d left her stranded were enjoying a holiday break. Scratches in the elevator bore testimony to the victim’s unthinkable ordeal.

“It’s a brutal sight,” a resident of the block of flats in the city Xi'an southeast of Beijing told Chinese media. According to eyewitnesses the hapless 43-year-old woman’s hands were severely disfigured as she attempted to break free.

It’s believed the victim – at this stage only identified by her surname Wu – had succumbed to hunger and thirst after the technicians attending to the broken lift simply switched off the power on 30 January and left on China’s New Year break, a number of public holidays starting in early February.

Workers often add their holiday leave to this break. Therefore technicians just recently returned to the block, where they made the gruesome discovery.

They’re under arrest and police in Xi'an say they could be prosecuted for “involuntary homicide”.

“There were scratch marks on the doors, over the entire inside of the lift. It was too awful,” a distraught resident said. The workers claim they’d shouted outside the lift to make sure there was no one inside. Obviously they should have checked inside of the lift as well.

The woman apparently lived on her own.

China has a dubious safety record, especially concerning lifts and escalators. This tragedy was one of a spate of similar incidents reported recently. At Huaqiao university in the city Xiamen, for example, a student died when a faulty lift shot up just as he was getting in and he was pinned between the lift’s floor and the top door frame. Emergency workers tried in vain to save him; his lungs were crushed and he suffocated.

In another sensational case Xiang Liujuan (30) was pulled into the gears mechanism of an escalator in a Jingzhou shopping complex. A loose metal plate at the top end of the escalator collapsed under her and her young son. She had the presence of mind while the escalator was sucking her in to hurl her child to safety into the arms of a shop assistant standing nearby.

Store employees tried to help Xiang but she’d dropped down beyond their reach within seconds. Tens of millions of social media users blamed poor maintenance work and paid tribute to Xiang: “It was terrible to see her falling in but I also felt the power of her motherly love,” one user said. “Her first reaction in her moment of terror was to ensure the safety of her child . . .''

According to a government report tens of thousands of China’s aging escalators and lifts have “safety issues” There are even reports about “lift fraud” involving the sale of poor imitations of approved brands of lifts.

Overworked technicians sometimes also produce fake maintenance reports. The detrimental effect of corruption on safety regulations and standards is common in China.

Sources: Associated Press, China Daily, Xinhua, The Guardian, LA Times

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