— RT (@RT_com) March 7, 2016
The prospect of riding an elevator, let alone being stuck in one, is enough to make the claustrophobic among us squirm. But in China, a woman appears to have met the worst imaginable fate for those who fear confined spaces, apparently starving to death during a month stranded on an elevator by allegedly negligent workers.
The Associated Press and many other outlets reported that the corpse of a 43-year-old woman was found in an elevator in an apartment building in Xi’an, a city of more than 8 million people that is about 700 miles southwest of Beijing. Authorities identified her only by her surname, Wu, according to the Los Angeles Times; her hands were reportedly mangled by her attempts to escape the elevator.
“The scene was inhumane,” one tenant of the building said, according to news reports cited by Shanghaiist. “We think she starved to death in there.”
Power to the elevator was cut Jan. 30, when a problem with it was reported. Workers, however, did not return until March 1, when they found the corpse. The Gaoling district government has now detained the maintenance crew; police said their gross negligence resulted in involuntary manslaughter. The AP reported that the workers cut the power without checking whether anyone was inside, but the L.A. Times noted that workers had “shouted” to see whether anyone was inside without looking themselves.
“The paramedics told us that when they found the body, her hand had already begun to deform,” another resident told Shanghaiist of the woman, who reportedly lived alone. “There were markings all over the inside of the elevator; it’s just too horrible.”
China has seen a number of gruesome elevator and escalator deaths in recent months. The AP noted the nation “has poor records on workplace safety where proper safety procedures and practices are routinely ignored.”
Among the incidents: Last July, a woman was crushed by an escalator in central China; in January 2015, a doctor and a patient bumped into an elevator door during a physical altercation when the door opened, and they plunged to their deaths; and in September 2014, a student was crushed by an elevator in Xiamen, a southern city — and gruesome video of the incident was widely shared on social media. In addition, there have been reports of “counterfeit” elevator sales — off-brand elevators sold under brand names.
After a spate of accidents last summer — including one in which a mall maintenance worker had to have his left leg amputated when an escalator he was cleaning collapsed — a government report “found that more than 110,000 escalators have potential safety issues of which over 26,000 have not yet been repaired,” as Time reported.
“These three accidents have led to heightened concerns and scrutiny of the country’s aging escalators and elevators, many of which are not up to acceptable safety standards,” Time noted.
The problem is not a new one.
“The dramatic increase in elevators in use, the aging of equipment and the heavy load on elevators and escalators threaten their safe operation,” Cao Yiding, of the government’s elevator inspection office, told the state-run China Daily in 2013. Cao noted that elevators are supposed to be inspected every 15 days; in a rapidly industrializing nation, however, that doesn’t always happen.
“It is because of the rapid increase [in elevators] and the lack of time to train more professional maintenance workers,” Cao said.
“Sometimes, some maintenance workers with a heavy workload would just skip some tests and fill in fake results,” Fan Kun, an official tasked with elevator inspection in part of Beijing, told China Daily.
Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified the location of Xi’an. It is is about 700 miles southwest of Beijing — not 700 miles southeast.
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