24 hurt when escalator goes into reverse

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 December, 2010, 12:00am

Twenty-four people were injured yesterday morning when an escalator suddenly jerked to a halt and reversed at a metro station in downtown Shenzhen.

The accident happened at about 8.50am at the Guomao station in Lo Wu district and involved a three-storey escalator moving upwards. The Shenzhen Metro Operating Company said the injuries could have been more serious if people had not fallen on top of one another. All the injured - including a pregnant woman - were treated at two local hospitals, with two seriously injured enough to require surgery.

Authorities sent a team to investigate the cause of the accident. The operating company instructed security guards to monitor all escalators at metro stations.

'I was on the middle of the escalator at the time,' the pregnant woman said. 'I heard a sudden, loud sound and then the escalator jolted quickly, like a roller coaster.

'The escalator stopped about five or six seconds later. I was so scared. I held the handrail tightly. Luckily, my baby was fine and my knee was only a little bruised.'

According to a male witness, more than 70 people were on the escalator when it suddenly reversed.

'The up escalator was packed with people because it was rush hour,' he said.

'Dozens of people fell backwards on the escalator when the accident happened. That's the most horrible scene I have ever experienced.

'It was so bloody. I saw somebody's bone protruding from the side. People cried and screamed. My calf was also cut and bruised.'

Another woman on the escalator, who had a bleeding leg injury, said: 'I was holding onto the handrail but still lost my balance and fell down. We had to wait on the floor 30 minutes until they sent us to hospital.'

With Shenzhen hosting the Universiade sports festival from August 12 to 20 next year, the accident raised concerns about improving the public transport network.

Five Metro lines totalling 155 kilometres are scheduled to be finished by June 10. According to the operating company, Shenzhen has invested about 20 billion yuan (HK$23.3 billion) in metro construction this year, including 12.6 billion yuan from the government, to meet the schedule.

A Shenzhen Metro insider placed a post online claiming serious safety problems with the system, saying at least 13 workers had died in accidents on construction sites in the first 10 months of last year. In March last year, more than 300 residents were evacuated after a construction site on Line 3 collapsed. Another collapse occurred on the line in November.

Shenzhen has had other public safety problems this year. On June 29, six people were killed and at least 10 were injured when an amusement park ride collapsed. Most of the 11 cabins on the Space Journey ride at the Ecoventure Valley amusement park turned upside down. Shenzhen police detained 11 people for further investigation, including the killer ride's supplier, supervisor, operator and safety examiner.