BEIJING • The recent death of a Chinese woman who starved to death after she was trapped in a lift for a month has sparked outrage online, with netizens raising concerns over China's poor safety standards.
By yesterday, news of the woman's death drew more than 3,000 comments on Twitter-like microblogging network Weibo, with many netizens blaming the staff for not carrying out a proper service check before turning off the power.
According to Chinese reports, two lift servicemen went to the apartment block in Xian city to check on the faulty lift on Jan 30. They reportedly did only a cursory check by simply knocking on the lift doors and shouting "Is there anyone inside?"
Hearing no response, they then cut off the power supply and told residents to use the other lift in the building, said South China Morning Post.
When the crew returned to make repairs 30 days later, they found the corpse of a 43-year-old woman inside the lift.
"Her hands were distorted… there were scratches on the wall, it was horrible," a resident who lived in the same building told Beijing Times.
On Weibo, there was an outpouring of sympathy for the woman, who was identified only by her surname Wu.
"Hate those irresponsible people. She must have suffered a lot. It pains me to read this piece of news," said one user Mumuyanger.
Another user Muweixi wrote: "It's horrible. For someone to be starved to death."
A district government in Xian said police had conducted a preliminary post-mortem and found no obvious signs of external injury. They have ruled out the possibility of homicide, reported South China Morning Post.
The report also quoted the government as saying that the servicemen had not followed guidelines and that they should have opened the lift doors to make sure no one was inside before cutting off the power.
"Would it have been so difficult to just open the lift and check?" BBC News quoted one Weibo user as saying, while another pointed out: "What if it was a deaf person, or a deaf-mute person in the lift?"
Since the incident, residents of the apartment complex have staged a protest against their building's management company.
Some Chinese reports said the victim lived alone and suffered from mental illness.
There were questions over why her family and friends did not try to contact her, especially since the incident happened over the Chinese New Year period when families and relatives would get together.
The news also prompted a wider discussion on social isolation in cities and a lack of compassion in Chinese society .
"I thought such things would only take place in the wild," one user posted on Weibo. "But the truth is the crowded cities are nothing but just a forest of steel - we are surrounded by so many people and have so many 'good friends' in (online) chat groups, but there are few who really have anything to do with you."
Another user said she was haunted by fears of a solitary existence.
"I'm so afraid of becoming a woman who is disliked by others, lives alone, and with no one showing any interest in me," she wrote.
Those responsible for the incident have since been detained by police, reports said, without specifying whether they were the maintenance crew or other parties.
China is prone to accidents as regulations and safety standards are often flouted and enforcement is lax, sometimes due to corruption.
A commentary carried by news portal jxnews.com.cn urged the government to strengthen supervision "to ensure such tragedies do not happen again".