Children saved after Pakistan cable-car drama

Army helicopters and specialists took part in a 14-hour rescue operation that drew nationwide and global attention

Six children and two adults were successfully rescued from a cable car in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province late on Tuesday, after a near-death ordeal that lasted almost 15 hours. Two people have since been arrested and charged with negligence over the incident.

The cable car was used to ferry people across the Jangri Khwar river in the Battagram district of the country, as there are no bridges in the area. The children on board were on their way to school when two suspension lines snapped, leaving the gondola dangling precariously about 600 feet (182 meters) above a river ravine below.

Civilian rescue crews were reinforced by the Pakistani Army’s Special Services Group (SSG) and four helicopters. Millions of people across the nation watched as repeated rescue attempts were broadcast live on TV.

One of the children was evacuated by helicopter before the rescue attempt was halted amid fears that backwash from the rotor could cause the gondola to break off. 

Helicopter operations were called off at the onset of night, citing visibility concerns and weather conditions. Rescuers then made an effort to reach the stricken gondola by ziplines, in darkness.

“It is a slow and risky operation. One person needs to tie himself with a rope and he will go in a small chairlift and rescue them one by one,” Abdul Nasir Khan, a local resident, told reporters. After nearly 15 hours, all eight people from inside the car were safe.

On Wednesday, local police arrested the owner and the operator of the cable car, on suspicion of violating five sections of Pakistani law, including “rash driving” and “negligent conduct with respect to machinery.” 

“This negligence endangered the lives of eight people, causing them emotional distress and resulting in a loss for the government,” according to the police report obtained by the outlet Dawn.

The owner was accused of using “substandard rope” for the cable car and neglecting to provide a fitness certificate for the cable to the police.

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