Two workers are trapped in northern China after local authorities say they plowed a section of the country’s Great Wall with an excavator, leaving a gaping hole.
The pair, a 38-year-old man and a 55-year-old woman, caused “irreversible damage” when they used construction equipment to widen an existing gap and create a shortcut big enough to drive an excavator through it, the Youyu County Public Security Bureau said in a news release last week.
The security bureau said it first reported the hole in a section of the wall, near the town of Yangqianhexiang, about 215 miles east of Beijing, on the afternoon of August 24. Law enforcement officials rushed to the scene to find a piece of the wall, believed to have been built by the Ming dynasty between the 14th and 17th centuries, was severely “excavated and damaged by heavy machinery,” the bureau said.
The man, named in the release as Zheng, and the woman, surnamed Wang, are from the Inner Mongolia autonomous region in the north of the country and have been taken in for investigation, the bureau added. They were accused of destroying a cultural relic, The China Daily, a state-owned media outlet, reported.
The Great Wall, which served as a fortress that protected the territory from invasions under successive Chinese empires, stretched over 13,000 miles. The best-preserved section is about 5,499 miles long. In 1987, the entire wall was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
But the challenges of preserving the fort increased. In 2015, figures from the Chinese government suggested that up to 30 percent of the original structure may have been lost. Some parts of the wall are in poor condition due to human activity, including local residents stealing bricks to build their homes, authorities said.
China is also battling vandalism from tourists. In 2017, photos of wall carvings in Chinese, English and Korean brought attention to its condition, according to local media. In 2021, two people were banned from the site after they trespassed on an undeveloped section of the ancient structure. And earlier this year, another man was detained for several days after he carved a name on a wall, according to local media.
Yan Zhuang contributed to the report.