Pakistan cable car: All 8 passengers rescued, primarily children.
After a 14-hour rescue effort, all eight people trapped aboard a cable car in Allai tehsil of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Battagram were freed late Tuesday night.
The operation’s success was first acknowledged in a statement published by Rescue 1122, and then by the military’s media affairs department.
Interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar also verified the news via social networking site X (formerly Twitter).
I’m relieved that all of the children were successfully and securely rescued. He praised the military, emergency services, district administration, and local residents for their efforts.
The event happened early in the morning, between 7 and 8 a.m., as six pupils and two residents were on their way to school.
They became caught after two cable car cables snapped, said Assistant Commissioner (AC) Jawad Hussain earlier, adding that the cable car was privately owned by residents for transit over rivers because there were no roads or bridges in the region.
For hours, the cable car dangled in the center of a steep canyon surrounded by tall mountains and a rough surface, alongside the Jhangri river.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) first believed that the passengers were trapped at a height of 1,000-2,000 feet. However, following the rescue attempt, the ISPR stated that they were stuck at a height of 600 feet.
The rescue mission lasted many hours.
The rescue attempt to free the trapped passengers began early in the morning, but the first two youngsters were not recovered until late in the evening
They were rescued by the military in bad weather and after repeated tries soon before sunset as part of an operation involving four aircraft.
As night fell, state television PTV News stated that the airborne operation had been canceled due to night and weather circumstances, but that rescue operations by “alternative means” were continuing.
The sling operation
The rescuer hangs from a sling and approaches the injured area/person. He or she is either tethered to the rescuer or hoisted using another sling. Meanwhile, the helicopter pilot and rescuer must be wary of the downdraft (air diverted towards the ground) produced by the chopper’s propellers.
The infant was saved by Pakistan Army officials, according to the AC, who also stated that belts had been handed to passengers within the cable car. The first youngster was saved using a rope attached to the belt he was wearing.
A Dawn News journalist on the scene explained that a commando from the Pakistan Army’s Special Services Group (SSG) undertook the rescue effort and deposited the youngster at a nearby improvised helipad.
Soon after, KP Rescue 1122 Spokesperson Bilal Faizi and Hazara Deputy Inspector General of Police Tahir Ayub Khan announced the rescue of the second kid.
The military’s public affairs division also announced that the troops had rescued the two youngsters and that attempts were being made to locate the remaining persons.
Separately, Deputy Commissioner Tanveerur Rehman told AFP that zipline specialists, other civil and military professionals, and local cable operators are on the scene and assisting with the rescue.
Meanwhile, Radio Pakistan claimed that food and beverages were being sent to the trapped individuals using a tiny chairlift dolly.
Later, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) announced the rescue of three additional youngsters.
Five children had been retrieved so far, according to an ISPR statement made about 9:45 p.m., more than 12 hours after the rescue effort began.
An ISPR statement issued after the operation, which ended at 11 a.m., described it as “extremely complicated and difficult.”
It was commanded by the SSG’s general commanding officer, and the unit’s sling team rescued the trapped civilians.
They recovered all of the persons trapped in the chairlift and relocated them to a safe area, according to the statement, which added that the operation was “expeditiously” launched by Pakistan Army Aviation and SSG on the orders of the army commander, and was subsequently joined by the SSG’s sling team.
It was a challenging operation, but Pakistan Army and Pakistan Air Force (PAF) helicopters arrived quickly and began the operation.
According to the statement, Pakistan Army Aviation offered entire technical help to the sling crew, allowing the operation to be completed successfully.
The PAF helicopter was also deployed in rescue attempts, according to the ISPR, who praised Pakistan Army and PAF pilots for their professionalism during the mission.
Local cable crossing specialists, local citizens, and the civil administration also aided in the operation, according to the statement.
The operation was described as “unique” in Pakistani history, with the sling team comprising the SSG, PAF, local government, and cable crossing professionals proving their mettle.
Meanwhile, President Dr. Arif Alvi expressed relief that the rescue effort was ended and encouraged the administration to perform a full audit of all local chairlifts to guarantee public safety.
Obstacles to rescue efforts
Earlier, Shariq Riaz Khattak, a rescue officer at the scene of the disaster, told Reuters that two rescue operations were initially unsuccessful.
He further mentioned that the procedure was hampered by a rope 30 feet above the dangling cable vehicle.
He said that the rescue attempt was difficult by high winds in the vicinity, as well as the fact that the rotor blades of the helicopters threatened further destabilizing the lift.
Similarly, Ghulamullah, the tehsil chairman, told Geo News that every time the helicopter dropped the rescuer closer to the chairlift, the wind from the aircraft would shake and disbalance the chairlift, causing the youngsters to cry in terror.
DC Tanveerur Rehman told AFP that this is a difficult surgery that requires extreme precision. The helicopter cannot get too near to the chairlift because its downwash (air pressure) may shatter the only chain holding it up.
Former army pilot Syed Jawad Ahmed provided a similar analysis to Geo News.
The television footage clearly shows the chopper fighting to keep a steady position against heavy gusts, he added, adding that rapid winds were a major impediment to the commandos’ attempts.
He believed that because of its inherent steadiness, a smaller helicopter might perhaps do the duty more successfully.
Ahmed also mentioned the potential of using an MI-17 helicopter for the rescue attempt. However, he admitted that this alternative was dependent on the terrain, which appeared unfavorable given the high altitude and difficult circumstances.
AC Hussain informed Dawn.com that the local government and Rescue 1122 teams were present at the scene, but owing to the height and rough terrain, rescue personnel were unable to carry out a relief operation.
He stated that as soon as the issue was reported, a request for a helicopter to rescue the passengers was forwarded to the province chief secretary.
As the sun fell, Rescue 1122 spokeswoman Bilal Faizi informed that the rescue will go on into the night.
Flashlights, disaster vehicles, and [rescue] workers are on the scene, he added, adding that rescue officials and the Pakistan Army are planning a cooperative strategy to continue operations at night.
From the cable vehicle, the student addresses the reporters.
Gulfaraz, one of the passengers trapped on the cable car, told Geo News in the morning that two of the students aboard were drifting in and out of consciousness.
The 20-year-old stated that the trapped youngsters ranged in age from 10 to 15 years.
Gulfaraz encouraged state officials to take action while keeping human sensitivity and life in mind. People in our neighborhood are standing here sobbing, he continued.
When questioned if the pupils had any food, Gulfaraz said that they didn’t even have drinking water: How will food be obtained? Water for drinking is in great demand.
He also mentioned that his phone’s battery was low, but others had a “simple mobile phone.”
He spoke to AFP over the phone hours later while still in flight. The dusk is approaching. Tell us why the helicopters are returning. He remarked on this during the evening talk.
Rehman, a government official, told AFP that three military helicopters had flown surveillance missions and that an airman had been lowered by a harness to distribute food, drink, and medication.
Meanwhile, a neighborhood resident, Abdul Nasir Khan, told Reuters, We are helplessly looking at them but can’t help.
The Prime Minister has asked officials to use all available resources in the rescue operation.
According to Radio Pakistan, Prime Minister Kakar had already urged officials to promptly rescue the captive persons.
According to the statement, the premier has asked the NDMA, the KP Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), and other relevant rescue organizations to use all available resources to rescue kids and instructors.
He also demanded that the safety precautions on all such chairlifts in mountainous areas be ensured and that chairlifts that are decrepit and do not satisfy safety requirements be closed immediately, according to the article.
According to Radio Pakistan, the NDMA has also offered coordination help to the PDMA for the rescue of the individuals.
The NDMA has requested a safety examination of all PDMAs’ tourism infrastructure in their respective territories, according to the article.
Mohammad Azam Khan, the interim Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, also took note of the tragedy and asked that action be conducted on an emergency basis to ensure the safe rescue of the trapped people.