A pregnant woman has died after stepping out of her car and falling into a septic tank in eastern China, reviving public concerns over poorly maintained manholes.
The woman, who was 29 and expecting her first child in less than three months, stepped onto the tank’s broken plastic cover near her home in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province on Tuesday night, according to local newspaper Modern Express.
Her husband made a desperate attempt to rescue his wife, identified only by her surname Ren, from the five-metre (16 feet) deep tank of sewage, but was unsuccessful.
He called the police and half an hour later she was pulled from the hole and rushed to hospital, where both she and the baby were declared dead.
Local authorities said the couple had just arrived at the residential community where they lived. The husband, who was driving, parked the car and she was fetching items from the back seat when the accident happened.
While a police investigation is under way, the manufacturer of the manhole cover and the property management company are passing the buck under intense public scrutiny.
The manufacturer, Hangzhou Jinmeng, has said a cement cover should have been used on the tank, which is located at the edge of a brick pavement beside a green area.
The company said its plastic covers were only designed for manholes under grassland and the property management company should have installed a cover made of cement and steel instead, of the type normally used in streets.
The property management company said the pavement was in an area designated for fire engines and not for parking. The company also suggested the couple’s vehicle may have damaged the cover while parking, leading to the tragedy.
A security guard was quoted in the Modern Express report as saying residents who returned home late regularly parked in the area if there were no other spaces.
“We set up a warning sign but it didn’t work at all. In fact this manhole is inside the greenery area but because there are cars coming and going all the time, the plants have been worn off,” he said.
A manager at the company said the area was not covered by surveillance cameras and the state of the cover before the accident was unknown, hinting that it could have been damaged by the victim’s own car.
Deaths and injuries caused by missing or damaged well covers have made frequent headlines during China’s rapid construction boom of recent decades.
In January, a woman died trying to save her grandson who fell into an uncovered well at a residential community in Zhengzhou, Henan province in central China.
Her neighbours said they had been aware of the problem well before the accident, but the issue was never resolved, although it had been reported to the property management firm, according to Henan Television.