Six students and two adults were traveling on the cable car above the Allai Valley in north-west Pakistan on Tuesday morning when the gondola stopped at 7am. The reason: Two ropes had snapped. Among the eight: 350 meter drop.
For hours they persevere at the height. Her gondola hung on a single steel cable. Thanks to the use of helicopters and a particularly courageous action by rescuers, all eight had safe ground under their feet again in the evening.
First, a military helicopter lowered a soldier in a harness to deliver food, water and medicine to those held in the gondola. A 20-year-old inmate described the dramatic hours to the Pakistani broadcaster Geo TV from the gondola. “We don’t even have drinking water,” complained the young man. A 16-year-old with heart problems collapsed and passed out. The teenager was on his way to a clinic in the morning. In the valley, residents and relatives followed the dramatic events in the air spellbound and full of fear.
In a risky mission by helicopter, two students were taken out of the gondola. Video of the first rescue shows a teenager hanging from under a helicopter at the bottom of a swinging rope and being pulled up.
Tanveer Ur Rehman, a local authority official, described how dangerous the operation was: “This is a delicate operation that requires the utmost precision,” he said of the rescue operation. Under no circumstances should the helicopters have approached the cable car too closely, as the airflow from the rotor blades might have torn the cable of the gondola.
When the dwindling daylight prevented further flights, the mission was initially interrupted. However, brave local residents continue the rescue operation after close consultation with military experts. They hung onto the remaining cable car wire to the gondola and first freed three other children and then the remaining occupants by zip line, as shown by Internet videos. “The two adults were the last to be rescued,” said Bilal Faizi of Pakistani rescue workers on Tuesday evening.
In the mountainous regions of Pakistan, cable cars are often the only way to reach remote villages. Ten people were killed when a gondola crashed near the capital Islamabad in 2017.
AR/wa (afp, dpa)