A day of fear and hope that kept Pakistan in suspense. After 14 hours, fortunately, the happy ending arrived: six children between 10 and 15 years old and two teachers were saved after being suspended on a dangerous cable car more than 300 meters high, in a mountainous area of the Battagram district, about 200 km north of Islamabad.
One of them, with heart problems, was knocked unconscious for more than three hours, but he held on until he was brought back to the ground. The accident occurred in the early hours of the day. The group of eight was on their way to school when around 7 in the morning two of the three cables that supported the structure broke, leaving only a support to hold up the small cabin where they traveled.
They all came from the village of Jangri, while the school is located in that of Batangi: every day hundreds of children use the cable car to reach it since it would take at least two hours to walk the same route by road. Yesterday morning, according to a policeman, there would have been at least four runs before the cables broke.
Rescue services intervened almost immediately, but the helicopters sent by the army had a lot of trouble intervening due to the strong gusts of wind that risked sending the propellers onto the only, unsafe cable that still resisted. After hours, water and food were delivered to the trapped people, but the first rescue came shortly after 6 pm Pakistani time. A second child was brought ashore by the armed forces just before sunset, amid bad weather and after multiple attempts, as part of an operation involving four helicopters.
After about half an hour, the dark complicated the situation even more and forced the aircraft to land. But the inhabitants of the area and the military involved in the operations did not give up and sought alternative ways to reach the cable car. Rescuers have used the tether that kept the structure from plunging into the valley like a zipline to rescue three other little ones.
The help of military experts was fundamental, but also of the many people who immediately gathered under the rickety, some in prayer and some in contemplation, all ready to celebrate each new rescue and to stay close to the families of the people who for hours they watched helplessly at the scene. A temporary camp has been set up in this area to provide first aid. Here they expected that too the last child and the two teachers they came brought to safety, when it was almost 11 pm in Pakistan.
“I am happy to hear that all the children have been rescued successfully and safely. A great team effort by the military, relief departments, district administration and local people,” said the Pakistani Prime Minister interim Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar. Similar events are not new in the country, since in many areas cable cars and gondolas are normal means of transport. Sometimes, however, the risk is that there may be accidents. Like in 2017, when ten people were killed when a chairlift cable broke, plunging passengers into a ravine in a mountain village near the capital Islamabad. Luckily, this time it was different.