After a protracted rescue operation on Tuesday, all eight individuals who had been perilously stranded in a cable car, dangling 900 feet over a ravine in Pakistan, were successfully rescued. The sentiments of 15-year-old Osama Sharif, one of the rescued individuals, succinctly capture the incredulity of their survival, as he conveyed to the Associated Press, “I saw a miraculous rescue happening with my own eyes.”
Sharif was among the group traveling to school around 9 a.m. local time on Tuesday in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province when a cable snapped, leaving them suspended in mid-air. This harrowing episode persisted for approximately 16 hours, ultimately ending in their safe retrieval.
Describing the initial shock, Sharif recounted, “We suddenly felt a jolt… It all happened so suddenly that we thought all of us are going to die,” as reported to the AP.
The rescue mission involved Army helicopters, with footage depicting a helicopter positioned above the cable car to deliver essential supplies, including food and water, via a commando sliding down a rope, as detailed by The New York Times. Adverse weather conditions, particularly high winds, momentarily hampered the aerial rescue, prompting rescuers to ingeniously employ the last operational cable as an impromptu zip line to retrieve three children.
Visuals also revealed a child being suspended from a rope attached to a helicopter, conveying the urgency of their safe evacuation.
As sunset approached, rendering helicopter flights unfeasible, authorities devised an improvised chairlift, utilizing the remaining functional cable, to access the stranded car. Upon reaching solid ground, the rescued children received oxygen and were subsequently reunited with their parents.
Cable cars are a frequently utilized mode of transportation in the Battagram district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Tragically, due to insufficient maintenance, accidents leading to casualties occur annually. “The school is located in a mountainous area and there are no safe crossings, so it’s common to use the chairlift,” explained headmaster Ali Asghar Khan, who noted that the children are students at his government high school, Battangi Pashto, via AFP.
Despite the traumatic experience, Ata Ullah, one of the rescued students, expressed his inevitable reliance on the cable car once it’s repaired, stating matter-of-factly, “I have no other option,” in remarks to the news agency.
In a significant turn, the owner of the cable car was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly flouting safety protocols, an action supported by Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister, Anwaar ul Haq Kakar. The prime minister mandated thorough safety inspections for all private cable cars to ensure their secure operation and use.
This incident serves as a vivid reminder of the critical importance of vigilant safety measures in safeguarding lives and well-being when using transportation systems, particularly those that traverse challenging terrains.