A military rescue is under way for six children and two adults trapped in a cable car over a ravine in Pakistan’s north-west.
They were heading to school when one of the cables snapped, leaving it dangling 274m (900ft) above the ground. So far, helicopter rescue efforts have failed.
One of the children, a 16-year-old boy, has a heart condition and was unconscious for several hours, an adult on board named Gulfaraz told local media.
“For God’s sake help us,” he pleaded.
The incident happened at about 07:00 local time (02:00 GMT) on Tuesday near the city of Battagram in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The open cable car is hanging precariously across the Allai valley, now by only one cable.
The car was making its fifth trip of the day, a local police officer told the BBC. By road, the journey from a village to the local school takes about two hours because of the mountainous terrain. The cable car ride takes that down to just four minutes.
Residents who spotted the stranded car used loudspeakers to alert officials. It then took at least four hours for the first rescue helicopter to arrive, local media outlet Dawn reported.
Four helicopters have so far taken part in the rescue attempts but were unsuccessful, local police officer, Muhammad Amjad told the BBC from the scene.
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The rescue mission is precarious – in addition to gusty winds, there are concerns that the helicopter’s rotor blades could further destabilise the chair-lift, rescue worker Shariq Riaz Khattak told Reuters news agency.
A commando has tried twice to reach the car using a rope from a military helicopter, assistant commissioner of Allai Jawad Hussain told the BBC.
However the rescue team has been able to deliver some water and food. Authorities are trying to spread nets underneath the car.
The six children on board are aged between 10 and 16 years old. One fainted due to heat and fear, Mr Khattack said, however it is unclear if that is the same child as the 16-year-old boy.
Gulfaraz, 20, who has been talking to journalists from the cable car over the phone, noted that anxious crowds had gathered on either side of the valley to watch the mission.
“People in our area are standing here and crying,” he told Pakistan television channel Geo News.
It is now night time in Pakistan, with the darkness further hindering the rescue.
BBC Weather’s Paul Goddard said the local forecast showed hot and humid conditions throughout Tuesday and Wednesday with continued gusty winds, as well as a few periods of heavy rain or thunderstorms. Maximum temperatures were expected to be around 33C (91F) over the next three days.
Headmaster Ali Asghar Khan, who runs the high school the children attend, said relatives of those trapped in the cable car are also at the scene.
“The parents are gathered at the site of the chair-lift. We are all worried,” Mr Khan told AFP news agency.
A local teacher told Dawn that about 150 people take the hazardous journey to school by cable car daily because of a lack of transport options in the area.
Source : BBC