Pakistan cable car miracle: Eight people saved by zip-lining commandos

Six children and two teachers who got stuck above a ravine have been rescued, Pakistan's caretaker prime minister said

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All eight people who were trapped in a cable car dangling over a high ravine in north-west Pakistan have been rescued after a challenging operation involving helicopters and zip lines.

Pakistan's military paused air rescue efforts for the evening with six people remaining trapped, after an army helicopter rescued the first of the children and another was rescued via zip line.

However, the ground-based operation continued, with rescue teams using zip lines to eventually rescue all eight people on the chairlift despite working in darkness.

The cable car was stranded at a height of about 275 metres, in Battagram district.

Watch video of Pakistan army's daring cable car rescue

Everyone rescued from a dangling cable car in Pakistan

Everyone rescued from a dangling cable car in Pakistan

A district administration official told The National that the incident happened at about 7am local time as the children travelled to school on a mountain.

The cable car broke down halfway across a 200-metre span.

Ground rescue teams were unable to reach the cable car due to the height and terrain, Pakistan's Dawn News reported.

Teacher Zafar Iqbal said one of the children reportedly fainted out of fear and the trapped pupils were communicating with him using their mobile phones.

Television footage showed one child being lifted off the cable car by a helicopter in a harness and then carried to the ground.

At least 150 pupils use the cable car every day to go to school, Mr Iqbal said.

The cable car is run privately by local organisations and there are no roads or bridges in the area, official Mufti Gulamullah told Dawn News.

Battagram resident Humayun Khan told The National that cable cars are used to travel across the mountainous area.

“In most cases, it is not feasible to build a road for two communities living on two mountains, each having around 30 to 40 houses, as such a route would cost a lot,” he said.

“This is why locals have set up chairlifts on their own to commute in the hills.”

Mr Khan suggested the government should review its guidelines to ensure cable car safety.

Relatives of stranded children fear outcome

Some residents in the Battagram district had earlier said they feared a hopeless situation, unable to help those trapped above the valley.

Abdul Latif, a middle-aged man, was in a pensive mood as he waited for his cousin, one of the stranded pupils.

“My cousin is the lone son of his mother,” Mr Latif said. “His mother has been visiting the site of the accident frequently and she may get mentally sick if something happens to the child since she has no other immediate family member, except this child,” he said.

Imran Khan, 25, said his brother was the first person to be rescued.

“Now we have decided not to allow our brother or any other family member to use the chairlift,” he told The National.

Mohammed Tieb, head of the Social Anthropology Department at Peshawar University, who comes from Battagram district, told The National that several similar, locally made chairlifts had been converted into bridges by local authorities.

However, he said that makeshift chairlifts are still being used in remote areas of the Allai Tehsil district.

He said the government should establish bridges or roads and remove locally made chairlifts, which have no safety oversight.

District Assistant Commissioner Fayaz Ahmed told The National that the government was already discussing safety regulations for the chairlifts, as well as regular inspections.

Updated: August 23, 2023, 5:20 AM