Woman decapitated in China lift incident

A man walks past an escalator at a shopping mall in Beijing on June 17, 2015.
A man walks past an escalator at a shopping mall in Beijing on June 17, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

HANGZHOU • A 21-year-old woman entering a lift in an apartment block in Hangzhou was decapitated in the latest of a spate of horrific incidents involving lifts and escalators.

On Sunday, a 30-year-old housewife managed to save her young son but not herself as a loose footplate gave way, plunging her into an escalator pit in a shopping mall in central Hubei's Jingzhou city.

Now, it has emerged that two female mall employees who tried to help her had a close shave themselves just a few minutes earlier, new footage released by state broadcaster CCTV showed.

In yesterday's incident, the young woman's head was caught between the doors of the lift, which suddenly ascended as she was just stepping inside, according to China-based website Shanghaiist .

Firefighters who rushed to the scene in Hangzhou, eastern Zhejiang province, said they found the woman's head on the 17th floor while her body was still on the 16th.

The residential development is believed to have been built in the 1990s.

A resident was quoted as saying that occupants often had problems with the lifts, such as the doors not closing.

A notice from the management office showed the lifts had been repaired at the end of last year.

Security footage showing Sun- day's escalator incident that killed housewife Xiang Liujuan circulated online, sparking shock and criticism.

In the new video released by CCTV, a female mall employee is seen taking the escalator from the seventh to the sixth floor. She then took it up again to join a colleague waiting for her.

As they were walking away, a footplate shifted, nearly tripping them. They reportedly went to notify the mall's management but the escalator was not shut down.

The two women returned to the escalator and, as Ms Xiang and her son were coming up, they alerted her to the loose metal panel.

Angry netizens said the tragic mishap could have been prevented had the two employees stopped the escalator or gone down to the sixth floor to stop shoppers from using it.

In another escalator incident, a toddler's left hand was mangled after his left arm was caught in the stairs of an escalator in a shopping mall in Guangxi. Rescuers took half an hour before they could free his arm.

The incidents have led many Chinese to take extreme care, with some seen prodding the footplates and others jumping over them.

Officials acknowledge that ageing and poorly maintained escalators and lifts pose safety risks.

Official data showed nearly 5 per cent of escalators and lifts were found to have problems, the official Xinhua news agency said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2015, with the headline 'Woman decapitated in China lift incident'. Print Edition | Subscribe