Ahmedabad, Jan. 19: At least five people were killed and 26 injured when a cableway to a hill shrine in Panchmahal district snapped today, plunging three cars to the ground.
Around 32 people were trapped in the seven trolleys that dangled in mid-air for hours before army and air force personnel and engineers of the state government pulled most to safety using helicopters.
The incident took place around 12.15 pm when three trolleys of the ropeway that ferries pilgrims to the Mahakali temple atop a hill in Pavagadh, 50 km from Vadodara, crashed to the ground.
Among the five killed were a five-year-old and two women. The injured were admitted to SSG hospital in Vadodara and are said to be out of danger.
The air force rescue team reached Pavagadh around 3.30 pm and, three hours later, all but five of those trapped in the cable cars had been rescued, parliamentary affairs minister Ashok Bhatt said in Pavagadh.
Operations will continue through the night. The government has requested the state electricity board to make emergency arrangement for lights.
Chief minister Narendra Modi had rushed Bhatt to the spot on learning about the accident and sought the help of the army and air force in rescue.
Bhatt, who coordinated the operation, confirmed five deaths. Unofficial sources in Vadodara put the toll at seven.
The victims have been identified as Rakesh Amin, 28 and wife Kripaben, 26, from Ahmedabad, five-year-old Deepak Patel from Kevadia colony in Narmada district, 48-year-old Rekhaben from Vadodara and Narendra Duradar, 38, who is from Assam but was working with ONGC in Vadodara.
“Preliminary investigations suggest the accident was caused by the snapping of one of the ropeways,” a senior police official said.
Witnesses said the cable cars collapsed when the ropeway’s pulley came off after the trolleys dashed against a beam.
Even as the Panchmahal district collector ordered a magisterial inquiry, it is widely believed that a “technical fault” and poor maintenance caused the mishap.
Reports said some irate onlookers torched the office of Usha Braco, the Calcutta-based private firm that manned the ropeways. The company runs about 50 cable cars every day and this is the first mishap in the service since it was introduced 14 years ago.
The famous Mahakali temple in Pavagadh stands at an elevation of 144 feet and draws thousands of pilgrims every day. The 700-metre ropeway is an added attraction.