'Act of God' blamed for cable car accident that killed seven
The management of the company that operates the gondola cable car service in Gulmarg in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday blamed "an act of God" for the Sunday tragedy which killed seven people including four members of a Delhi family.
Riyaz Ahmad, General Manager of the project, told IANS that there was no violation of the standard operating procedure (SOP) on Sunday as alleged by some.
A man, his wife and their two children were killed in the accident that also left three locals dead. Another 150 people who were in other cable cars were saved.
"We don't operate the gondola during high velocity winds and there is an inbuilt safety mechanism in the system that automatically stops the operation whenever there are gusty winds," Ahmad said.
"What happened yesterday was a great misfortune because of an act of God," he told IANS.
Ahmad said there was bright sunshine when the cable cars were in motion. But, he said, "suddenly a gush of strong wind uprooted a pine tree that hit another large pine tree, whose branch fell on the cable derailing it from the pulley.
"The system stopped operation and we found out that the cable had been derailed between the fifth and sixth towers.
"After getting derailed, the cabins in this sector started swinging dangerously but no cabin crashed to the ground," he insisted. "What caused the deaths of our guests was the shattering of glass.
"After the glass shattered, the occupants were thrown out of the cabin because of the way the car was dangerously swinging."
The dead were identified as Jayant Anderaskar, his wife Manisha and their daughters Anagha and Jhanvi. They were from Shalimar Bagh in Delhi.
The other three victims were identified as Mukhtar Ahmed Ganie, Javed Ahmed Khandey and Farooq Ahmed.
It was the first such disaster in the ropeway project which has 36 cabins and 18 towers and is a joint venture of the Jammu and Kashmir government and a French firm. It is hugely popular with tourists who flock to Gulmarg, a skiing hub.
Manager Ahmad added that the system was restored in a record time of two hours and other occupants in different cabins were rescued.
The Senior Superintendent of Police in Baramulla, Imtiyaz Hussain, told IANS: "We have registered an FIR into the accident. If investigations reveal any dereliction or violation of the SOP, we will book those responsible."
The two-stage Gulmarg cable car lift ferries people to a height of 13,780 feet above the sea level. It is the world's second highest operating cable car project, with ferrying capacity of 600 people in one hour.
The first stage of the cable car transfers people from the Gulmarg resort at 2,600 metres (8,530 feet) to Kongdori station in the bowl-shaped Kongdori valley, according to the company which operates the cable car.
The second stage takes people to a height of 3,747 metres (12,293 feet) on Kongdori mountain.