Military helicopters and zipline experts on Tuesday rescued eight people, including six school boys, trapped for hours in a stricken cable car high above a remote valley in Pakistan.
The daring rescue operation commenced as a helicopter lifted two children to safety after they had spent nearly 12 hours suspended in the air, with darkness descending. However, the helicopter had to return to its base due to the lack of visibility.
Subsequently, the rescue team ingeniously utilized the cable that prevented the cable car from falling into the valley as a zipline, successfully evacuating the remaining stranded individuals late into the night on Tuesday.
Waqar Ahmad, an emergency official, conveyed that as soon as all the rescued individuals were brought to safety, their families erupted in tears of joy, embracing one another. Throughout the ordeal, prayers were continuously offered due to the fear that the cable might break, persisting until the last person was rescued.
The military authorities confirmed the successful conclusion of the rescue operation. Bilal Faizi, a representative of Pakistan’s emergency services, noted that the two adults were the final ones to be rescued.
A video depicting the initial rescue showed a teenager suspended from a swinging rope underneath a helicopter, while a relieved crowd cheered in the background.
The rescuers established a makeshift camp on a mountaintop to provide first aid, according to Faizi.
The incident unfolded when six children, en route to school, became trapped in the cable car when it malfunctioned around 7:00 am. Mosque loudspeakers were employed by residents to alert local officials about the emergency, leading to the gathering of hundreds of spectators on both sides of the valley to witness the unfolding drama.
Numerous military helicopters conducted sorties earlier in the day, with an airman being lowered by harness to deliver essential supplies of food, water, and medicine, as reported by Rehman, an official.
Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister, Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, praised the coordinated efforts of the military, rescue departments, district administration, and local inhabitants. He also issued a directive for the immediate inspection and closure of unsafe chairlifts in mountainous regions.
During the rescue operation, headmaster Ali Asghar Khan conveyed that the trapped children were students at his government high school Battangi Pashto, situated in a mountainous area where chairlifts are commonly used due to the absence of safe crossings.
As the rescue mission unfolded, parents and onlookers anxiously waited for the children’s safe rescue. Abid Ur Rehman, a teacher from another nearby school, stated that around 500 people gathered to observe the rescue, with parents and women displaying visible concern for the safety of the trapped individuals.
Syed Hammad Haider, a senior provincial official, disclosed that the gondola was suspended at a height of approximately 1,000 to 1,200 feet above the ground.
Cable cars play a crucial role in connecting villages and towns in regions where conventional roads are impractical to construct. However, incidents such as a 2017 cable car accident that claimed 10 lives have highlighted the importance of ensuring the safety of these systems.
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