Escalators in Shanghai made by the company involved in a fatal accident in central China's Jingzhou City have been taken out of service until checks guarantee their safety.
Xiang Liujuan, 30, died when she fell through a loose panel on an escalator in the Anliang department store on Sunday and was dragged into the machinery.
Shanghai safety officials have identified 90 escalators made by Suzhou Shenlong Elevator Co Ltd in use in the city's Putuo, Xuhui, Baoshan, Minhang, Songjiang, Qingpu districts and the Pudong New Area. Nine companies were using them, 30 of which were the same model as the one in Jingzhou, the Shanghai Quality and Technical Supervision Bureau said yesterday.
Shanghai Jiashijia, a home decoration store in Xuhui, had 18 escalators of the same type, while the Bailian Zhonghuan Shopping Mall in Putuo had six of the same model out of its 52 Shenlong escalators, the bureau said.
A supermarket in Qingpu and a logistics company in Songjiang had the other six.
"These escalators pose potential safety hazards for the design of the panels," said Shen Weimin, the bureau's deputy director.
The escalators will be checked thoroughly and rectified to ensure they are safe before they are allowed to operate, Shen said.
Shanghai has more than 15,400 escalators in use at present, according to the bureau.
Quality watchdogs in Jingzhou said there was a design flaw in the Shenlong escalator that had caused the panel to come loose.
There were also problems with the size of the escalator panels which didn't meet design requirements, an investigation team found.
In a statement, the investigators said the department store should also be held responsible for the accident.
Videos showed that two shop assistants had stepped on the loose panel five minutes before the accident. It didn't collapse but they reported the fault to the store. However, the escalator wasn't stopped for repairs.
Soon afterward, the panel collapsed when Xiang stepped on it. She managed to push her 2-year-old son to safety but was sucked into the machinery.
Some two minutes passed before workers arrived to bring the escalator machinery to a halt, according to the videos aired by China Central Television.
An increasing number of aging elevators and escalators with safety hazards need to be reviewed, a spokesman for China's Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said yesterday.
Many elevators built after 2003 are reaching the end of their serviceable life, making safety a bigger issue, he said.
"What's most troubling is that it's not clear who are responsible for aging elevators in residential properties," he said. "There's no money available to repair them."
With rapid urbanization, the number of elevators and escalators has been increasing by 20 percent every year and the trend is likely to continue, Xinhua news agency said. However, accident rates had actually declined thanks to the increased use of new equipment, the spokesman said, and casualties had remained stable since 2003.
Of 49 accidents last year that killed 37, 21 were caused by passenger misuse while eight were due to equipment failure. Poor maintenance is a major issue caused partly by price competition in the maintenance business, the spokesman said.
The administration requires a transparent competitive environment for elevator maintenance firms and has asked manufacturers to provide after-sales maintenance services.
It will revise the barriers to entry for companies in the elevator industry and promote platforms such as hotlines to deal with emergencies.
The spokesman suggested that there should be elevator liability insurance in place to compensate victims.