Xicheng authorities said Wednesday that they were investigating the case of a 27-year-old woman who suffered burns after dropping into scalding hot water when a street collapsed.
The woman, named Yang Erjing, was on her way to work at the Wuhua Mansion building on Sunday when a one-square-meter section of sidewalk on Beilishi Lu, collapsed.
Yang was doused with scalding hot water spraying from faulty pipes as she fell beneath the street, the Beijing News reported on Tuesday. She was left with burns across 99 percent of her body.
Yang was taken to intensive care at Beijing Jishuitan Hospital, Xicheng district in critical condition, said the newspaper.
A source inside the hospital indicated that Yang was still in intensive care, however no official comment could be made at the time. Yang's family was not answering the phone yesterday.
"She suddenly fell in to this hole full of boiling water," Yang's colleague, surnamed Ma, told the Beijing News at the scene. "It was horrible, as I tried to help her up, her skin began to peel."
Xicheng District Administration of Work Safety said yesterday that they had launched an investigation into who should be liable for the accident.
An official from the administration who declined to be named confirmed that an investigation was taking place, but was unable to expand while the office was still on public holiday.
"Once the investigation reaches a conclusion, the party which should take responsibility will be identified," he said.
A vice manager of Beijing Heating System Group (BHSG), surnamed Tian, told the Beijing News on Monday that there were 30 meters of broken piping in the neighborhood leaking water at temperatures above 90 C. He suggested that the leakage might have softened the soil which led to the collapse of the pavement.
"The area of land with the leakage doesn't belong to BHSG, and the property management is responsible for repairs and routine inspections," said Tian, "the group only takes liability to provide assistance."
The paper indicated that BHSG had received complaints about hot water leaking through the pavement prior to the accident and had dispatched staff.
However, Ma said at the scene that there was no sign of "any staff or any warning signs in the area."
"The responsibility should be held by the current property ownership, and it appears the heating group should take secondary liability for their failure to act on reports and complaints, as well as their failure to supervise the property management company," said Fang Bo, a lawyer with Beijing Yusheng Law Firm.
Beijing Wanhua Real Estate Company, the developer and owner of Wuhua Mansion could not be reached for comment yesterday. According to a Beijing Times report yesterday, the company had paid 320,000 yuan ($50,816) in medical expenses to Yang.
"Yang was on her way to work, so it could also be a work-related injury in the official settlement, the company should pay some clear compensation as well," added Fang.
On March, 16 last year, seven residents were scalded by hot water spraying from a hole in the Sidaokou area of Haidian district. It was later found to be caused by improper maintenance by BHSG staff according to the Beijing Evening News.