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Teenage boy trapped in cable car dangling high above Pakistan’s gorge

Six teenagers and two adults were suspended in a cable car above a deep valley Pakistan A military helicopter hovered nearby for several hours on Tuesday, officials said.

The teenagers were using the chairlift to cross the valley to get to the school when a cable snapped halfway up at an altitude of up to 1,200 feet in a remote, mountainous part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

“For God's sake help us,” Gulfraz, a man who got stuck in the cable car, told Pakistani TV station Geo News over the phone, confirming that eight people were on board.

People watch as a Pakistani soldier falls from a helicopter August 22, 2023 during a rescue mission to recover schoolchildren stuck in a chairlift in Pashto village in the mountainous Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Six youths and two adults were suspended in a cable car dangling above a deep valley.

-/AFP via Getty Images

“It's been almost five hours since we've been stuck in midair. The situation is so bad that one man has already passed out. A helicopter arrived but left without being called.”

The incident happened around 7:00 a.m. local time, with residents using the mosque's loudspeakers to alert neighborhood officials across the Allai Valley.

Anxious crowds were gathering on either side of the gorge, which is several hours from the nearest capital.

“The cable car is suspended from a single rope. There are at least eight inmates, most of whom are school children,” Abdul Basit Khan, a senior provincial rescue agency official, told AFP.

Images broadcast on TV show a Pakistan Army helicopter circling near the nacelle, hanging over a deep gorge and surrounded by lush green mountains.

“The cable car is stuck in a place where it is almost impossible to help without a helicopter,” Zulfiqar Khan, an official with Pakistan's 1122 Ambulance Service, told AFP.

Principal Ali Asghar Khan told AFP by phone that the youths were male students at his Battangi Pashto state high school.

“The school is in a mountainous area and there are no safe crossings, so it's common to use the chairlift,” Khan said.

“Parents are gathered at the chairlift location. What can you do? They are waiting for rescue workers to get their children out. We are all concerned.”

Abid Ur Rehman, a teacher at another school in the area, said around 500 people gathered to watch the rescue mission.

“The scenes here are filled with intense emotion, with parents and women crying for the safety of their children,” he told AFP.

Acting Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar issued an order to inspect all chairlifts in mountain areas and immediately close those that are not “safety compliant”.

The National Disaster Management Agency said in a statement that six children and two adults were on the cable car at a height of at least 900 feet.

Syed Hammad Haider, a senior Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provincial official, said it hung about 1,000 to 1,200 feet above the ground.

Cableways carrying passengers and sometimes cars are common in the northern areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and Gilgit-Baltistan and are vital for connecting villages and towns in areas where roads cannot be built.

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