Stunning footage shows how Pakistani children were forced to hold on in a narrow cable car for 16 hours as they fell just inches from 1,200 feet to their deaths before being rescued.
Drone footage obtained by the BBC shows the passengers holding on as the carriage hangs dangerously high above Pakistan’s remote Allai Valley.
Then one of the passengers is seen using a zipline to get to safety.
All occupants of the zipline, six children and two adults, were rescued Tuesday in a rescue operation involving zipline experts and a military helicopter.
The owner of the cable car company in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province was later arrested by police on multiple charges including negligence and endangering precious lives.
Drone footage shows passengers holding on as the car hangs dangerously at an angle over a valley
Schoolchildren rescued from the broken cable car said on Wednesday they repeatedly feared they were going to die during the 16-hour ordeal, despite attempts by their parents to calm them down via mobile phones.
Several of the children who were on their way to school on Tuesday when one of the car’s cables snapped also called for a school and a bridge to be built in their village so that they would not have to use the cable car in the future.
One of the youngest was grabbed by a commando attached to a helicopter by a rope, while others were lowered to the ground in a makeshift chairlift made from a wooden bed frame and ropes.
“I had heard stories of miracles, but I saw a miraculous rescue happen with my own eyes,” said 15-year-old Osama Sharif, one of those rescued.
Osama was on his way to school to collect his final exam results on Tuesday when one of the cables snapped.
“Suddenly we felt a jolt and everything happened so suddenly that we thought we were all going to die,” he said in a telephone interview.
Some on board had mobile phones and began using the phone. Concerned parents tried to calm the children down.
“They told us don’t worry, help is coming,” he said. After several hours, passengers saw helicopters flying through the air.
One of the passengers used a zip line to get to safety. All of the zip line’s occupants, six children and two adults, were rescued during a 12-hour rescue operation that involved zip line experts and a military helicopter
The cable car broke, leaving eight people dangling 1,200 feet above the river gorge in Battagram, about 120 miles north of Islamabad
Locally made cable cars are a common mode of transportation in the mountainous Battagram District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. They glide over steep valleys and reduce travel time to schools, workplaces and companies. However, they are often poorly maintained and every year people die or get injured using them.
On Wednesday, police arrested Gul Zarin, the cable car’s owner, for failing to comply with safety procedures.
Local authorities in the north-west mountain regions said they would close all cable cars deemed unsafe.
Thousands of people came on Tuesday to witness the risky operation. Once, a rope lowered from a helicopter swayed wildly as a child, secured in a harness, was pulled up.
In fact, the helicopters added an element of danger. The air currents thrown up by the whirling rotor blades risked weakening the single cable that kept the cable car from falling to the bottom of the river gorge.
“We cried and had tears in our eyes because we feared that the cable car would break down,” Osama said.
After sunset, when the helicopters could no longer fly, the rescuers changed tactics. They used a makeshift chairlift to approach the cable car, using the one cable that was still intact, local police chief Nazir Ahmed said.
Syed Hammad Haider, a senior Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province official, said the nacelle hung 1,200 feet above the ground
Pakistan Army soldiers conduct a rescue operation for students stranded in a chairlift in Battagram
“God is great” shouts rang out as the chairlift was lowered to the ground just before midnight in the final phase of the operation.
Ahmed said the children were given oxygen as a precaution before being handed over to their parents, many of whom burst into tears of joy.
Two other surviving children, Rizwan Ullah and Gul Faraz, told the Associated Press they would not forget the ordeal for years.
Gul said while waiting for rescue, he feared the cable car would fall to the ground and “we would soon die”. He appealed to the government to build a school in the area and connect their village to the surrounding towns with a bridge and a road “so that our elderly and young people don’t face such things.”
Rizwan, 11, said he doesn’t want to use the cable car again, but that will only be possible if a school is built nearby.
Ata Ullah, another rescued student, said he would try to be brave the next time he has to ride the cable car. “I’m scared to use the cable car, but I have no choice.” “I will go back to my school when the cable car is repaired,” he said.