Six children and two teachers are trapped in a gondola dangling 274 metres (900ft) above a ravine in Pakistan after a cable had snapped, and high winds are hampering an “extremely risky” helicopter rescue mission, officials say.
The children, who have been stranded since 7am (02:00 GMT), were using the gondola to get to school in a mountainous area in Battagram, about 200km (125 miles) north of Islamabad, officials said.
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The National Disaster Management Authority said in a statement that a cable had broken in the lift service and two army helicopters had been dispatched for a rescue operation after attempts at fixing the fault had been unsuccessful.
The gondola became stranded halfway across a ravine and was dangling by a single cable after the other snapped, Shariq Riaz Khattak a rescue official at the site, told the Reuters news agency.
“One child has fainted due to heat and fear,” Khattak said.
The rescue mission is complicated due to gusty winds in the area and the fact that the helicopters’ rotor blades risk further destabilising the gondola, he said. The military helicopters are both hovering near the stranded cable car, he added.
‘For God’s sake, help us’
“For God’s sake, help us,” Gulfraz, a man stuck in the cable car, told Pakistan television channel Geo News by phone, confirming eight people were on board.
“It has been nearly five hours since we are stuck mid-air. The situation is so bad that one man has already fainted. A helicopter arrived, but left without conducting any operations.”
One security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said special services troops trained in aerial sling operations are involved in this “extremely dangerous and risky operation”.
“All efforts are being made by Pakistan army to rescue the stranded people in the lift,” the official said.
People who live in the northern mountainous regions of Pakistan often use chair lifts for transport from one village to another.
Local Abdul Nasir Khan said the children were going to a high school in Batangai in Alai.
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar expressed concern in a post on the messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
“I have also directed the authorities to conduct safety inspections of all such private chair lifts and ensure that they are safe to operate and use,” he said.