Pakistan cable car: Relief as all passengers brought to safety

By Kathryn Armstrong

BBC News in London

All eight people who were stuck in a cable car dangling hundreds of metres above a ravine in Pakistan’s north-west for many hours have now been rescued.

In a slow and dangerous operation, a military helicopter rescued one child, while teams on the ground recovered the rest of the group after dark.

They were helped to safety along a zip line, with a huge crowd on top of the hillside celebrating their rescue.

The group were on their way to school when one of the car’s cables snapped.

It was left hanging precariously across 274m (900ft) above the ground and in high winds.

Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister, Anwaar ul Haq Kakar, said he was relieved, and thanked all of those who were involved in the rescue.

Pakistan’s army said the rescue mission had been “extremely difficult and dangerous”.

The incident happened at about 07:00 local time (02:00 GMT) on Tuesday near the city of Battagram in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Six children, aged between 10 and 16 years old, were trapped, along with two adults.

One of the children, a teenage boy, has a heart condition and was unconscious for several hours, an adult on board named Gulfaraz told local media.

A child also fainted due to “heat and fear”, a rescue worker told Reuters news agency, although it was unclear if that was the same child.

Known by locals as “Dolly”, the cable car links the village of Jangri to Batangi, where the school is located.

The car is a popular and cheap mode of transport to get across the Allai valley – cutting a two-hour road journey through mountainous terrain to just four minutes.

When the cable suddenly snapped, Dolly was making its fifth trip of the day.

Residents used loudspeakers to alert officials to the crisis, but it took at least four hours for the first rescue helicopter to arrive at the remote location, local media outlet Dawn reported.

Anxious crowds, including relatives of those trapped, quickly gathered along the ravine, watching on as military helicopters battled against the strong winds to lower commandos to the stranded car.

Several early attempts to reach them failed, however some food and water was successfully delivered.

A map showing how a cable car is stuck in Pakistan

In addition to gusty winds, there were concerns that the helicopter’s rotor blades could further destabilise the cable car, and as night set in the operation was suspended.

But rescuers continued their efforts with the help of zip line experts and local people on the ground.

Allai is a mountainous area, located at an altitude of 2000m above sea level. Settlements are spread far and wide and there is little infrastructure like roads and basic facilities.

In most of the area, makeshift chairlifts and cable cars are used regularly for transportation from one mountain to another.

The one involved in this incident is believed to be privately operated by residents, local media reported.

Police said they checked the lift every month, however BBC News has been unable to independently verify this.

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