All eight people left stranded on a broken cable car in the mountains of Pakistan Tuesday have been rescued, the country’s caretaker prime minister shared on X, formerly Twitter.
“Relieved to know that Alhamdolillah all the kids have been successfully and safely rescued,” Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar wrote.
Seven schoolchildren and one adult were left hanging 900 feet above the ground in the Battagram district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province in northeast Pakistan after a cable broke around 8:30 a.m., according to Geo News, a Pakistani news channel.
It remains unclear what caused the cable car, which is regularly used by local children to travel to school, to malfunction. Zafar Iqbal, a teacher, told Geo News “150 children come to school by cable car” every day.
The Pakistani military was able to remove some passengers via helicopter, but was forced to reassess its efforts due to bad light once the sun set, and changed tactics to use a second, smaller cable car to rescue the remaining two passengers, according to Geo News.
Footage on social media showed one person being lifted to safety by rope to a helicopter above.
During the rescue, family members of the passengers could only look on.
“They are in front of us but we are helpless — observing them and unable to provide any help,” Mufti Hasan Zaib, a religious scholar whose son was among the passengers, said in a phone interview with The New York Times as he watched the helicopter mission from a hill.
“We don’t even have drinking water in the cable car,” Gulfaraz, a 20-year-old passenger who confirmed that most of the commuters were students, told Geo News over the phone Tuesday while on the cable car. “The first cable broke down after the cable car travelled a mile.”
Gulfaraz said one of the passengers was 16 years old and has a heart condition, according to Geo News. The teenager, who was en route to a local hospital via the cable car when the incident occurred, fainted and remained unconscious for three hours at the time of Gulfaraz’s phone call.
“My mobile phone battery is depleting fast,” he told a local TV news channel, per the Times.
The incident has reminded locals like religious leader Maulana Qasim Mehmood of the importance of necessities like health care and transportation for the region — as a 2005 earthquake there killed more than 80,000 people and decimated infrastructure.
“The villages in Allai are several decades behind the global development standards,” he said, per the Times.
The nearest hospital and high school respectively lie 90 and four miles away, leading women in labor to often give birth en route and people who have fallen dangerously ill to die along the way, according to the Times, while children spend two to three hours daily to get to school.
That changed around five years ago when engineers from a nearby city built a cable car across the valley, cutting the lengthy commute for students down to 10 minutes.
Kakar said on X that the incident prompted him to direct authorities “to conduct safety inspections of all such private chairlifts and ensure that they are safe to operate and use.”