A woman from the central Chinese city of Xian has died in a lift of the apartment building where she was living after being trapped in it for over a month.

The police found the woman's body, which had begun decomposing, on March 1, and launched an investigation, news portal NetEase said.

"The scene was inhumane. We think she starved to death in there," one of the residents, Xiao Lin, said.

Another resident, only named Wang, said the lift was full of markings of the victim's desperate attempts to get out.

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Chinese media wondered how it was possible that the woman's corpse went unnoticed by the building's residents for more than 30 days, although it could be that several residents may have been away on travels to other parts of China during the customary Lunar New Year festivities in February.

The apartment building has two lifts and it was possible the residents paid little attention to the broken elevator and opted to use the other one.

Another mystery is how the woman went missing for a month without family or friends reporting her absence to the authorities.