July 27, 2017

Teen killed after escalator reverses direction

Chaos at the bottom of the escalator following the malfunction.

A teenage boy has been killed and 28 people injured when an escalator at Beijing Zoo subway station suddenly changed direction, throwing passengers to the bottom in seconds.

The accident has happened on one of Beijing’s newest train lines fueling fears that the massive and quickly built public infrastructure projects in recent years in China may be at the expense of safety.

Witnesses described a strange grinding noise from the shifting gears and then chaos as riders at the top of the escalator fell to the bottom in less than two seconds.

The 13 year-old and the other riders were thrown down the metal stairs and into a heap at the bottom. Twenty-eight people were taken to hospital, including the dead boy’s father and sister. Two of the injured were described as being in a serious condition.

Station staff declined to comment, but the railway operator put out a brief online statement: “Beijing MTR Corporation expresses our deep mourning to the dead passenger in this accident and relatives, as well as apology and sympathy to injured passengers and relatives.”

It said an investigation was under way into the cause of the breakdown at Beijing zoo station. The government has ordered checks on elevators at other stations.

The capital’s subway system opened in 1969 and has expanded rapidly in the past few years to become one of the five longest networks in the world with more than 170 stations and 400km of track.

Line 4 is one of the most modern. Completed in 2009, it connects the university district to the south of the city.

Newswarped hopes that this tragedy is enough to jolt the authorities in China to put safety ahead of speed of construction. If this accident is symptomatic of much of China’s infrastructure development then there is going to be a massive harvest of death and frustration to be reaped in the not too distant future.