Firefighters worked more than four hours to retrieve the body, which showed “no signs of life,” Agence France-Presse said, citing the Wuhan Evening News.
The Chinese newspaper cited unnamed individuals saying maintenance workers at the Anliang shopping mall in Jingzhou in Hubei had just finished working on the escalator and had neglected to screw the floor plate back into place.
By Monday, the news had been seen by millions on China’s social media site Sina Weibo. Many expressed anger over the shopping mall’s negligence.
“Why didn’t the staffers stop customers at the entrance to the machine or just turn it off?” one wrote, according to AFP. “The department store is definitely responsible.”
Others were inspired by the mother’s heroic actions.
“I was appalled when I saw her sink and at the same time felt the greatness of maternal love — the mother wasted no time pushing the child out when it happened,” one said.
Family members told the South China Morning Post that Xiang was shopping with her husband, who had not yet made his way up the escalator.
Such accidents are not unheard of in China, where “regulations and standards are often flouted and enforcement is lax, sometimes due to corruption,” according to AFP.
The mall has not yet released a statement about this weekend’s accident.