Eight people, six of them schoolchildren and two teachers, have been trapped after a cable car broke down in northern Pakistan.
The children had been travelling to school in Battagram, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, when “one of the chairlift’s cables snapped”, said CNN, leaving them stranded 900ft above a ravine.
After attempts to repair the broken cable had been unsuccessful, Reuters reported that two army helicopters had been dispatched to the scene as part of the urgent rescue operation.
“The gondola became stranded half way across a ravine and was dangling by a single cable after the other snapped,” rescue official Shariq Riaz Khattak told Reuters.
One of those trapped in the cable car is named Gulfraz, a 20-year-old, according to Geo News. He told the Pakistan TV channel by telephone that the group “have been stuck for more than six hours”. He also said that a 16-year-old passenger “who suffers from a heart condition” had been unconscious for three hours. The group “don’t even have drinking water”, he added.
A statement from the country’s caretaker prime minister, Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar, described the incident as “really alarming” and ordered all “dilapidated and non-compliant chairlifts” to close immediately.
The cable car is in a “remote, mountainous part” of the province, the Times of India said. Zulfiqar Khan, an official with Pakistan’s emergency rescue service, told AFP that it is “almost impossible to help without a helicopter”.
Cable cars are a common form of travel for those living in such isolated areas. However, they can be a “risky form of travel”, CNN added, as some “lack regular maintenance”.