“Grateful to hear that, Alhamdulillah, all the children have been rescued safely and successfully, by the Army Commandos” states PM Kakar.
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After 15 hours of determined effort, adept Pakistan Army commandos successfully rescued all eight individuals stuck in a cable car. The incident was triggered by a cable failure and occurred in Allai Tehsil, within Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s challenging Battagram district.
Caretaker PM Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar announced on X, expressing relief as all children were safely rescued. The success was credited to joint efforts by the military, rescue groups, administration, and locals.
PM Announces Successful Rescue of Children
At dawn, an open cable car got stranded halfway across a ravine after a cable snapped, leaving it suspended by one cable. Eight individuals were trapped for over 15 hours in this perilous situation.
Prior to sundown, a pair of children were successfully rescued utilizing the assistance of an army helicopter.
However, the helicopter-based operation had to be halted due to the onset of darkness and adverse windy conditions.
Special Forces Launch Operation to Rescue
Subsequently, the military initiated a ground-based mission, under the guidance of the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Special Services Group (SSG), aimed at rescuing the remaining five individuals who were still aboard the cable car. This operation was devised to employ alternative methods for their retrieval.
Innovative Tactics Employed by Pakistan Army
A smaller cable car was suspended on the same cable in order to facilitate the evacuation of the individuals and provide them with sustenance in the form of food and water. Additionally, the Pakistan Army enlisted the assistance of a local specialist in cable crossings to contribute to the operation.
Joint Air and Ground Rescue Mission by Pakistan Military
In the aftermath of the occurrence, helicopters belonging to the Pakistan Army Aviation and the Pakistan Air Force were engaged in the rescue endeavor, working in tandem with the Special Services Group (SSG) personnel.
Challenging Rescue Operation
The complexity of the rescue operation was heightened by turbulent winds prevailing in the vicinity, as well as the inherent risk posed by the helicopter’s rotor blades potentially exacerbating the instability of the cable car’s position. Shariq Riaz Khattak, a rescue official present at the scene, conveyed this information to Reuters.
Cable Car Mishap
An initial report of the incident says that seven schoolchildren and a local person were traveling in the cable car to go to the Batangi Government High School.
As per the report, at approximately 7:45am, one of the cables supporting the lift experienced a fracture, resulting in the cable car becoming immobilized while suspended in mid-air.
Hanging at 6,000 feet, the cable car holds Abrar, Irfan, Usama, Rizwan Ullah, Ataullah, Niaz Muhammad, Sher Nawaz, and Gul Faraz.
Battagram’s deputy commissioner contacted Hazara’s commissioner for a helicopter. SSG team in Kaghan Valley and Pakistan Air Force (PAF) helicopter also joined the rescue effort.
The district administration, police, and two rescue teams are on-site. Nearby health centers are on emergency status, and DHQ Battagram is on high alert.
Punjab’s DG of Rescue, Dr. Rizwan Naseer, stated a height rescue team is prepared to assist.
Military to ‘Persist in Rescue Operation Throughout the Night’
According to News, the Pakistan Army Aviation and SSG teams made a fourth attempt to rescue those trapped in the cable car. A complicating factor was another cable 30 feet above, posing a helicopter collision risk.
Delicate Cable Car Rescue Continues
The operation proceeded with care, while alternatives for nighttime operations were being considered. Deputy Superintendent of Police Nazeer Ahmed confirmed the safety of the children inside. Gusty winds posed difficulties, even shaking the rescue helicopter and jeopardizing the cable car’s balance.
SSG Sling Operation
Risky options like an SSG sling operation were discussed. Ex-military officer Wing Commander Asim Nawaz advocated starting the sling operation soon.
The cable car, stranded at 900 feet, prompted a Pak Army helicopter dispatch by NDMA and coordination with PDMA. Mansehra DIG Tahir Ayub noted helicopter rescue was essential.
In a picturesque mountain setting, cable cars link remote areas. Senior KP official Syed Hammad Haider said the cable car hung 1,000 to 1,200 feet above, necessitating a helicopter for relief efforts.
Trapped for Hours
‘Individuals Trapped for Numerous Hours’
Gulfaraz, aged 20, currently onboard the cable car, conveyed to News that he and fellow passengers have been stuck for over six hours. He expressed concern about a 16-year-old with a heart condition who had been unconscious for three hours. Gulfaraz highlighted their lack of drinking water.
The first cable snapped at 7am, followed by another shortly after covering a mile. The stranded individuals, including six students aged 10 to 16, have been awaiting assistance since early morning.
Cable Car Situated at 2,000 Meters.
Cable Car Incident in Mountainous Battagram
As per PDMA’s released information, the cable car incident occurred at 8:30am in the Pashto area of Battagram. The cable car, positioned around two thousand meters above, traverses through mountainous terrain alongside rainwater channels.
The stranded children were utilizing the cable car for their journey to school within the mountainous region. District Police Officer Sonia Shamrose assured dedicated efforts for their rescue.
Zafar Iqbal, a teacher, confirmed that the cable car is a common means of transportation for approximately 150 students in the area, noting that two cables snapped while the car was suspended in mid-air.
Caretaker PM Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar labeled the incident concerning and urgently instructed NDMA and PDMA to secure the safe rescue of the 8 stranded individuals in the chairlift.
“I’ve also instructed authorities to inspect the safety of all private chairlifts and confirm their operational safety,” he appended.
Ahead of the rescue, a Pakistan Army helicopter is presently conducting a reconnaissance mission in preparation for the sling operation.
Critical Cable Situation Raises Caution
Reportedly, two of the three chairlift cables have already snapped, and the remaining cable is susceptible to breaking due to the air pressure from the helicopter. Hence, the rescue operation will proceed with utmost caution.
Previously, Faisal Karim Kundi, a leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, appealed for assistance, urging the interim Prime Minister, interim Chief Minister KP Muhammad Azam Khan, and Information Minister Feroze Jamal to promptly intervene.
According to Syed Jawad, a former pilot, the Pakistan Army Aviation possesses the capability to handle such circumstances and has successfully executed rescue operations in the past.
He further mentioned that the challenge in today’s operation lies in performing the Out of Ground Effect (OGE), a highly demanding procedure.