Search abandoned for missing woman, 21, who fell down manhole

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 March, 2013, 11:43am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 March, 2013, 3:08pm

A two-day city-wide rescue mission to find a woman who had fallen down a drainage hole filled with poisonous marsh gas was abandoned yesterday in Changsha, southern China, the Today Morning Express reported on Monday.

Rescue teams in the capital city of Hunan ordered their personals to withdraw on Sunday evening after they failed to find Yang Lijun. 

The 21-year-old fell into a manhole without a cover around 9pm on Friday night during heavy rain storms. The ground where she fell was flooded by water said to be at least 30 centimetres deep, making visibility difficult, according to witness’ account.

A friend who was with Yang when she fell said she received a voice message on her cell phone from Yang, the paper reported. “It is freezing here. Water is pouring all over me,” she was heard to say. But when her friend tried to call back for five times later that night, the calls went unanswered. 

After Yang’s friend alerted the police, Changsha government dispatched dozens of teams of police and firefighters in a joint search and rescue mission. Officers opened and examined all 45 manholes on the route between the one where the girl fell and Xiang River which is the destination of city’s water drains.

Changsha maritime safety administration also sent ships to search the river which is 3,300 metres from where the accident took place.

As the search was called off, the authority came under fire from critics questioning how a one-metre diameter manhole could had been left uncovered on street. The newspaper also reported there was no warning signage near the manhole, which was less than 20 metres away from an overpass. 

Police speculated the manhole lid was lifted by surging underground water caused by the heavy rain.

In a commentary of Yangtse Newspaper called “One department carrying out its duty would save ten thousands rescuer’s efforts,” critic bashed government and blamed all relevant departments to take responsibilities. “No matter what causes the removal of the manhole lid, it doesn’t rule out the fact that there are quality flaws,” the article said.

Meanwhile, about a hundred residents joined a candlelight vigil on Saturday night to pray for Yang’s safety. “We wish for a miracle that could bring the woman back safely,” college student Bin Xuechao said the the paper on the vigil.