Eight people, including six children, were rescued on Tuesday after their cable car snapped and dangled hundreds of metres above a ravine in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Children and two adults were travelling to school when the cable car accident occurred, leaving them stranded about 274 metres (900 feet) above the ground. The carriage swayed in strong winds.

A military helicopter was dispatched to the cable car accident scene and rescued one child. However, the helicopter was forced to return to base as nightfall set in. The military helicopter also had the obstacle of strong winds. The winds threatened to destabilise both the cable car and the rescue operation itself.

Ground teams stepped in to rescue the remaining people.

The operation used a zip line to transport the trapped individuals from the cable car to the ground. Experts in zip line operations were enlisted, and locals on the ground lent their support. The region’s unique topography and limited infrastructure, with settlements dispersed across the landscape at an elevation of 2000 metres above sea level, contributed to the operation’s complexity.

Among those trapped, a teenage boy with a heart condition remained unconscious for several hours. Another child reportedly fainted due to a combination of heat and fear.

The incident occurred at 7:00 local time on Tuesday.

Dubbed “Dolly” by locals, the cable car was a vital link between the village of Jangri and Batangi. It made access to education and opportunities for residents convenient in an otherwise challenging terrain.

This cable car system was a cost-effective and efficient means of traversing the valley. A two-hour journey along winding mountain roads was reduced to four minutes, thanks to the cable car system. The incident occurred during the fifth trip of the day.

Makeshift cable cars, often cobbled together from scrap metal, are a ubiquitous sight in eastern Mansehra and Pakistan-administered Kashmir. It provides essential connectivity where traditional infrastructure is lacking. The cable cars bridge significant distances between facilities such as schools, medical centres, and markets, that would otherwise be difficult to access.

Many of these makeshift cable cars have no official sanction. Bureaucratic hurdles and financial constraints usually accompany large-scale infrastructure projects.

Distress signals echoed through the valley via loudspeakers as residents rallied to alert authorities about the situation. The remote location of the cable car proved a significant obstacle, causing a delay of approximately four hours before the first rescue helicopter could reach the site.

The cause of the cable car accident is still under investigation.

Reports suggest that the cable car involved in the incident is owned and operated by residents. Police authorities stated they conducted monthly inspections. However, independent verification of these inspections remains elusive. Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar issued a directive for safety inspections to be conducted on all privately-operated lifts.