China / Society

Escalator tragedy leads to call for heightened safety checks

By Wu Yan ( Updated: 2015-07-27 16:17

Escalator tragedy leads to call for heightened safety checks

The woman died after falling into a gap at the top of a department store escalator in Jingzhou city, Hubei province. [Photo/IC]

Regular safety checks and maintenance of escalators and elevators have been urged in the wake of a tragedy in Central China's Hubei province.

A woman fell into a gap at the top of an escalator at a department store in Jingzhou city on Sunday.

The woman aged 30 managed to push her two-year-old boy to safety at the top of the escalator, the Wuhan Evening News reported.

Surveillance video at the shopping mall in Jingzhou shows the woman holding her son as she prepares to get off the escalator when a footplate collapses under her feet.

Stuck in the hole and with only her upper body above the structure, she pushed her son forwards and he was caught by a shopping assistant standing near the top of the escalator.

The woman fell beneath the floor only a few seconds later after another shopping assistant tried to grab her arm and failed.

It took rescuers nearly four hours to recover the body of the woman, according to the newspaper.

Maintenance had just been carried out on the escalator at the department store, and workers forgot to screw the access cover back into place, the newspaper cited an unnamed source as saying.

It was the latest in a series of similar accidents in China, where there are 3.6 million escalators and elevators carrying 200 million people every day.

37 people were killed in China in escalator accidents last year for 3.6 million registered escalators, according to the special equipment bureau of the General Administration of Quality Supervision.

On June 13, a woman fell 19 floors to her death at a residential building due to the failure of an elevator in Changsha, Central China's Hunan province.

In 2012, a nine-year-old boy was killed after he got stuck in an escalator at a Beijing department store as horrified shoppers looked on.

In July 2011, a 13-year-old boy was killed and more than 20 others injured when an escalator in a Beijing underground station suddenly reversed direction during the rush hour.

"Such accidents seem to happen by chance, but they all point to a loophole which is the lack of management and maintenance of escalators and elevators," said Zhou Jigao, director of the construction business research committee under the Shanghai lawyer's federation.

A survey has shown that among causes leading to escalator and elevator failures, quality problems make up of 16 percent, installation problems account for 24 percent and lack of maintenance and malpractice take a huge 60 percent.

According to a regulation issued by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, escalators and elevators should be maintained twice every month and overhauled every quarter.

An industrial insider, who wished to remain anonymous, said it is widely known that many escalators and elevators operate without obeying the regulation, Xinhua reported.

Another contributing factor to the failures is the use of out of date of malfunctioning escalators and elevators.

Taking 15 years as the safe useful life, among more than 60,000 escalators and elevators in service, 1,745 exceeded that time and only 60 went for scrap in Gongguan, South China's Guangdong province, Xinhua reported.

The first national standard on the scrapping of main components is expected to take effect next February.

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