Rescue efforts are continued into night in Allai tehsil of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Battagram, passengers trapped in a cable car since early morning, as of now, five children have been successfully rescued, leaving three individuals still stranded within the cable car, suspended thousands of feet above a ravine.
The military’s media affairs wing confirmed the successful rescue of the children at approximately 9:45pm, marking over 12 hours of continuous rescue operations. The initiative is being spearheaded by the general commanding officer of the Pakistan Army’s Special Services Group (SSG), highlighting the gravity of the situation.
Efforts are diligently underway to safely retrieve the remaining individuals from the cable car, as emphasized in a statement by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). Deputy Commissioner Tanveerur Rehman informed AFP that a team of zipline experts, along with civil and military personnel, as well as local cable operators, are actively participating in the ongoing rescue operation.
In the midst of these endeavors, state broadcaster Radio Pakistan has reported that essential supplies, including food and drinks, are being transported to the stranded individuals using a small chairlift dolly. The collaborative efforts of various experts and authorities aim to ensure the successful rescue of those still in jeopardy within the cable car.
The first two children were rescued by the armed forces amid rough weather and following multiple attempts shortly before the sunset as part of an operation that saw the use of four helicopters.
Once the darkness set in, state broadcaster PTV News reported that the aerial operation had been “called off” due to “night and weather conditions” but rescue efforts through “alternative means” were ongoing.
The rescuer is suspended with a sling and approaches the affected site/person. He or she is tied with the rescuer or another sling is used to hoist the person. Meanwhile, the helicopter pilot and rescuer have to be cautious of the downdraft (air that is deflected towards the ground) that is generated by the chopper’s propellers.
The incident occurred in the Allai tehsil early morning — estimated between 7am and 8am — when six students and two locals were on the way to school.
They got stuck when two wires of the cable car snapped, the assistant commissioner said, adding that the cable car was privately run by locals for transportation across rivers as there were no roads or bridges in the area.
The cable car is dangling in the middle of a deep ravine surrounded by towering mountains and a rocky surface, along with the Jhangri river beneath it.
Details regarding the height at which the passengers are stuck is not yet clear. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) estimated it to be 1,000-2,000ft.
Hours later, he spoke to AFP on the phone while still stuck midair. “The evening is coming nearer. Tell us why the helicopters are going back?” he said.
By then, government official Rehman told AFP that several military helicopters flew reconnaissance sorties and an airman was lowered by harness to deliver food, water and medicine.
Meanwhile, Abdul Nasir Khan, a local resident, said while speaking to Reuters, “We are helplessly looking at them but can’t help.”
PM asks authorities to utilise all resources for rescue operation
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar has directed authorities to immediately rescue the trapped people, Radio Pakistan reported.
It said the premier has directed the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the KP Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) and all relevant rescue agencies to rescue students and teachers by utilising all resources.
He further instructed that the “safety arrangements on all such chairlifts in the hilly areas” be ensured and directed to immediately close the chairlifts which are in dilapidated condition and do not meet safety standards, the report added.
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…
— Anwaar ul Haq Kakar (@anwaar_kakar) August 22, 2023
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa caretaker Chief Minister Mohammad Azam Khan also took notice of the incident and directed that action be taken on an “emergency basis for the safe rescue of the stuck persons”.
بٹگرام کے علاقہ آلائی میں چئیر لفٹ کیبل ٹوٹنے کا واقعہ، نگران وزیراعلی محمد اعظم خان نے معاملے کا نوٹس لے لیا۔ وزیراعلی کا فوری طور پر چیف سیکرٹری سے رابطہ
• وزیراعلی محمد اعظم خان کا چئیر لفٹ میں پھنسے افراد کو بحفاظت ریسکو کرنے کے لئے ہنگامی بنیادوں پر اقدامات اٹھانے کی ہدایت pic.twitter.com/WTEsonkcBZ
— Chief Minister KP (@KPChiefMinister) August 22, 2023
Information Minister Murtaza Solangi said the rescue operation was in “full swing”.
The rescue operation in Battagram is in full swing. The relevant authorities including ministry of information will continue updating what is happening on the ground.
— Murtaza Solangi (@murtazasolangi) August 22, 2023