Eight people, including six children and two adults were stranded in a cable car around 900 feet above the ground in a distant mountainous region in Northern Pakistan on August 22, Tuesday.
According to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) the incident happened at around 7:00 local time. The children were traveling to school in the Allai valley of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province when all of a sudden, one of the cables of the chairlift snapped.
Residents alerted the local officials using loudspeakers as soon as they noticed the chairlift stranded mid-air.
The rescue operation is currently underway and two military helicopters were sent to begin with this highly risky operation. They began destabilizing the chairlift to get closer to it. They have been trying to use rope ladder to save the passengers. After taking a surveillance trip, one of the helicopters was sent back.
A rescue official told Reuters that the strong winds are making the rescue complicated. The helicopter’s rotor blades can destabilize the chair lift which is another reason for concern. The villagers in the Battagram district, where this tragic incident has happened, frequently use cable cars to get around as they do not have other means of travel between villages in the remote areas in the hilly regions in the North of Pakistan. It has to be noted that these cable cars are not well kept and are often in poor condition.
Gulfaraz, a man who was stuck in the cable car informed Geo News (Pakistan television news channel) that one of the students trapped had fallen unconscious in the past three hours, on a phone call. He added that the children stuck with him were only ten to fifteen years old.
Pakistan’s acting Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar said on X (formerly twitter) that the chairlift accident was alarming and he has directed the NDMA, PDMA and the district authorities to urgently evacuate the eight people trapped in the cable car safely. He added that the authorities have been directed by him to conduct inspections of all private chairlifts to ensure that they are safe to use and operate by the passengers boarding them to travel.
Military officials have said that if required the rescue operation will be continued till the night. The rescuers were taking necessary precautions so that the helicopter does not get hit by a wire located 30 feet above the cable car.
An official present on site said that a military rescuer provided the children with food, water and emergency medicine in the cable car. The medicine was intended to stabilize the children before they could begin with their rescue.
Taimur Khan, a spokesperson of the disaster management authority told that the military sent the helicopters more than six hours late to carry out the evacuation operation. He added that the cable car was around 1,150 feet above the land.
This accident has raised serious safety concerns about such chairlift systems which are very commonly used in the region. The school going children depend on these cable cars for traveling as they do not have other modes of transportation in these areas.
This incident has reminded many people about a similar accident that happened in the year 2017 when a cable car fell into a ravine hundreds of feet deep in the mountain resort of Murree after its cable broke, killing 10 people.