Two children were rescued by the Pakistan Army after eight people were trapped 900 ft mid-air for more than 10 hours on Tuesday when the wires of a chairlift snapped in a mountainous area in the country's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
According to Rescue 1122, the rescue operation by the special forces of the Pakistan Army is underway to save the rest of the people trapped in the dangling chairlift, Geo News reported.
The children were headed to school when the incident occurred at around 8 am in Battagram district's Allai tehsil.
According to Allai tehsil chairperson Mufti Gulamullah, the chairlift was privately run by locals for transportation across the river as there were no roads or bridges in the area, the Express Tribune newspaper reported.
"A chairlift stuck at a height of about 900 ft midway due to breakage in one of its cables in Battagram. Eight persons, including 6 children, (are) stranded," the Geo News reported citing a statement from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
Helicopters of Pakistan Army Aviation and Pakistan Air Force are participating in the rescue operation along with the Special Services Group (SSG) troops, the report said.
The Express Tribune reported that a final helicopter rescue attempt was being carried out as a last resort as a chopper operation in the dark can be very risky and dangerous given the weather conditions and low daylight conditions as night time approaches.
Authorities have decided to continue the rescue operation from the ground with the help of the Pakistan Army so that the operation may be continued even in the dark of night.
Rescue workers on ground began the process of laying down nets to prepare for any mishaps, the report said.
Television footage aired around 4:45 pm showed a rescuer suspended from a sling being lowered and positioned adjacent to the chairlift, the Dawn News reported.
The rescue mission is complicated due to gusty winds in the area and the fact the helicopter's rotor blades risk further destabilising the lift, it said.
The chairlift is dangling in the middle of a deep ravine surrounded by towering mountains and a rocky surface, along with the Jhangri river beneath it.
Earlier, two helicopters belonging to the Pakistan Army and the Pakistan Air Force arrived at the site for a rescue operation. Two attempts were made to move towards the chairlift. One of the helicopters then moved away.
The local administration along with Rescue 1122 teams were present at the spot, but due to the height and the hilly terrain, it was not possible for rescue officials to carry out a relief operation, the report quoted Assistant Commissioner Jawad Hussain as saying.
Ghulamullah, chairman of the Allai Valley area, told Geo News that “every time the helicopter lowered the rescuer closer to the chairlift, the wind from the helicopter would shake and disbalance the chairlift making the children scream in fear”.
Gulfaraz, a 20-year-old who is currently present on the chairlift, told Geo News over the phone that they don't even have drinking water in the chairlift.
He said that a 16-year-old passenger, who suffers from a heart condition, has been unconscious for the last three hours. Gulfraz said the teenager was going to the hospital through the chairlift.
Gulfaraz said the first wire broke at 7am while another cable broke down soon after. The passengers have been waiting for help since early morning, he said.
Meanwhile, directing authorities to rescue all the people stuck in the chairlift, Interim Prime Minister Anwarul Haq Kakar asked the national and provincial disaster management authorities to utilise all the available resources and issued directives to ensure safety measures for cable cars in the hilly areas.
"The chairlift accident in Battagram, KP is really alarming," he tweeted.
According to a local school teacher, Zafar Iqbal, at least 150 students take the hazardous journey to school by cable car every day due to the lack of road facilities in the area, the Dawn newspaper reported.