Gulmarg tragedy: Kashmir accident not the first time death has struck cable cars
Four tourists and three local residents died on Sunday when a cable car came crashing down from a height of at least 30 meters at the tourist resort of Gulmarg. But tragedy has struck many times in the past decade.india Updated: Jun 27, 2017 11:05 IST
The accident in Jammu and Kashmir’s Gulmarg that killed seven people after they were violently flung from a cable car on Sunday may not have been an isolated incident.
Similar facilities across India, especially in the hill state of Uttarakhand, have seen a rash of accidents over the past decade.
In April and again in September 2013, two cable cars in Uttarakhand’s Nainital – developed with Swiss technology and carrying 22 guests – experienced technical snags. On a busy afternoon in 2005, a cable car in Mussorie stalled, leaving tourists dangling in the air – only timely rescue by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police averted a crisis.
Operators of cable-car facilities say they have put into place strict checks to ensure accidents are avoided.
“We have a strict schedule for the security of tourists and maintenance. We do annual closure twice in a year to check faults if any. Also, we make sure thrice a day that everything is going smoothly,” said Rakesh Dobhal, regional manager of Usha Breco that runs two cable-car operations in Haridwar, one up to the Mansa Devi and the other to the Chandi Devi temple.
Apart from ski resorts and tourist destinations, manual and hydraulic cable-cars are also run in around 20 locations in the Garhwal region of Uttarkhand – a lifeline for local residents in a region where roads are sparse and air or train networks absent.
But in the last four years since flash floods in the Kedanath Valley, these facilities have seen 16 accidents. On July 27 last year, a 26-year-old fell from a cable car into the Mandakini river. Later on Sept 7, a three-year-old girl was drowned after she fell from the trolley. In 2014, a Nepali boy lost his arm after it was crushed by a malfunctioning door.
In West Bengal’s Darjeeling, officials say they learnt their lesson from a 2003 accident when four tourists died after two cable-cars fell from the ropeway into a ravine.
“Darjeeling district administration-appointed officials survey the conditions of the cable and the cable- cars on a regular basis. Even the slightest of snags result into suspension of services till the time the snags are repaired,” said an official from the West Bengal forest department.
At the Kailasgiri Hill Park at Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, tourists had a narrow escape last year after a the hook of the car detached from the cable and fell. “Luckily, the accident took place at about eight feet from above the ground and hence, there were no major injuries,” former Visakhapatnam Urban Development Corporation vice-chairman T Babu Rao Naidu, who was then in-charge of the ropeway, told HT.
The 375-metre-long ropeway offers a 360-degree view of the picturesque port city from fibre-glass cabins and is used by at least 500 tourists every weekend. “We have taken all precautions to see that there were no further accidents, even smaller ones.”
(with inputs from Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri in Kolkata)