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Hong Kong health care and hospitals

Lift crash estate residents reveal previous incidents at Tsuen Wan complex

Revelations come after freak accident on Sunday that injured two people, while early investigations reveal no systematic issue with brand

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 April, 2018, 12:57pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 April, 2018, 3:13pm

Residents have revealed more issues with the lifts at a Hong Kong housing estate after a freak accident that left two people in hospital, while early investigations showed no systematic problem with the brand.

One resident of Block 3 at the Waterside Plaza in Tsuen Wan told a radio programme on Tuesday she had once been trapped in a lift and had heard of at least two other such cases in the past year.

She also highlighted issues such as the bottom of the lift being two inches higher than the floor of the building and the doors only opening for one to two seconds.

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“If no one is inside, the lift will always go back to the 40th floor until someone presses the button to another floor,” she said.

A resident from Block 4 said a woman and her grandchild had been trapped in a lift for 15 minutes. She blamed it on poor management and claimed there were issues with lifts in all blocks of the development that had resulted in discontent among the residents.

On Sunday, a couple, both 32, and a male resident got into a lift on the ground floor. The man got out on the seventh floor and the couple, who live on the 15th floor, continued their ascent. But instead of stopping at the 15th floor, the lift continued to the top floor of the 46-storey residential block.

“The lift … failed to stop at [their] floor,” a government source said. “It kept ascending until it smashed into the top of the lift shaft.”

The Post understands the lift was travelling at normal speed, or only slightly faster, when it crashed, meaning the emergency braking system did not activate.

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The impact brought the ceiling crashing downwards, injuring the couple and trapping them inside.

Their condition improved from critical to serious on Monday.

Speaking on the same radio programme as the residents, Pang Yiu-hung, assistant director of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, said investigations were continuing. 

The department said on Monday the incident might have been caused by insufficient traction between the suspension cables and sheave or a malfunction of the elevator’s braking system.

The lifts in Block 2, where the accident occurred, and Block 1 are of the same brand and model.

Pang said the department was also checking the lifts in Blocks 3 and 4, as well as those in the shopping centre, which are from the same manufacturer but are a different model.

All the lifts were manufactured by Dongyang Elevator, a South Korean firm later taken over by German multinational Thyssenkrupp. 

“With our current investigations, we do not see a systematic problem with this brand,” he said.

Pang said a citywide inspection of 300 lifts of the same model in the next two weeks was for the sake of safety and to alleviate concerns. 

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He said it usually took two to three months to complete such investigations.

Kuok Hoi-sang, chairman of the Chevalier Group which maintains about one-third of the Dongyang manufactured lifts in the city, said the lifts were “not that old”. Waterside Plaza opened in 1991 and is run by Sino Group.

“Some lifts in Hong Kong are about 40 years old,” said Kuok, the president of the Lift and Escalators Contractors Association.

Landlords should consider replacing all old lifts, he added.

Charles Wong Kai-hon, a principal instructor in mechanical and manufacturing engineering at the Vocational Training Council, told the Post buildings with lifts older than 20 years could consider installing a device called “rope clipper” to improve safety.

“The device can prevent the lift from rising suddenly, or from moving while the doors are open.”

While lifts installed after 2007 are legally required to have the device, Wong said older lifts, such as the ones manufactured by Dongyang Elevator, are not.

Wong estimated that it would cost about HK$100,000 (US$12,700) to install the device and suggested buildings with sufficient funds consider doing so.

With additional reporting by Sum Lok-kei