Eight people, including six schoolchildren, are trapped over 1,000 feet above the ground in a cable car after two of its wires snapped on Tuesday in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Battagram district. A rescue operation involving the Pakistani Army and Air Force is underway. Two children have been successfully rescued by the armed forces amid rough weather and multiple attempts.
After the sunset, the aerial operation was "called off" due to "night and weather conditions" but rescue operations through alternative methods are still underway, said officials. The first child was rescued with the help of a rope that was hooked onto the belt he was wearing. Soon after, the second child was rescued by the team, Dawn reported.
The incident occurred early morning when two locals and the six children were on their way to the school. They became trapped after the wires of the cable car snapped and is dangling in the middle of a ravine surrounded by mountains.
One of the commandos from the Pakistan Armed Forces' Special Unit earlier made two attempts to move towards the cable car and a backup helicopter carried the mission over the chairlift.
One of the rescuers was hoisted with a sling while approaching the affected site to rescue a single trapped person. The rescue mission was complicated due to gusty winds in the area and the helicopters' rotor blades that risk destablising the lift.
Allai Assistant Commissioner Jawad Hussain earlier said that if the helicopters fail to rescue the trapped passengers, Rescue 1122 teams will use a snorkel to rescue them from the cable car. He said that the teams are alreay trying to spread nets underneath the cable car.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) estimated that the cable car is dangling at a height of 1,000-2,000ft. Due to the height and the hilly terrain, it was difficult for rescue teams to carry out a relief operation.
Conditions of the trapped passengers
Gulfaraz, one of the passengers trapped in the cable car, told Geo News that two students were slipping in and out of consciousness as the rescue operations went on. The schoolchildren are between 10 to 15 years of age.
He said that the children did not have any food or drinking water. He also urged state authorities to keep "human empathy and human life" while taking action. "People in our area are standing here and crying," he added.
Meanwhile, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq said that he has directed authorities to urgently rescue the cable car passsenger and conduct safety inspections.
"The chairlift accident in Battagram, KP is really alarming. I have directed the NDMA, PDMA and district authorities to urgently ensure safe rescue and evacuation of the 8 people stuck in the chairlift. I have also directed the authorities to conduct safety inspections of all such private chairlifts and ensure that they are safe to operate and use," he said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa caretaker Chief Minister Mohammad Azam Khan also directed that action be taken on an “emergency basis for the safe rescue of the stuck persons”.
Lack of roads in the area
A schoolteacher named Iqbal explained that many students take the hazardous journey by cable car every day as there are lack of road facilities in the area. "There are no other arrangements." he added.
He also said that the cable car has been installed for around eight years and has been inspected every month.
Additionally, District Police Officer (DPO) Sonia Shamroz also raised the issue of maintenance of cable cars due to their frequent use by locals, adding that chairlifts were the main mode of transport for children in such “hilly terrains”.