Tourists stuck in French Alps cable cars rescued
They were the last of 110 sightseers trapped when the cable cars ground to a halt on Thursday afternoon in the shadow of Mont Blanc, western Europe’s loftiest peak. After a night in the frozen dark, dangling at an altitude of 3,800 metres (12,500 feet), the string of cars lurched into movement around 8 am (0600 GMT).
The incident was caused by cables that got crossed for “unknown reasons”, but a gust of wind is thought to have played a part, said Mathieu Dechavanne, boss of the Mont-Blanc Company which manages the system. The cars were restarted after the last cable was untangled, he said.
The 33 remaining passengers were able to reach the ground by exiting the cars at three points on the way down, an official said. On Thursday, teams were able to rescue 77 passengers, most of them by helicopters and others who were able to climb down with help.
But as darkness fell and the weather deteriorated, the operation was suspended, leaving the remaining tourists, one of them a 12-year-old boy, to spend the night suspended mid-air.
The boy’s sister, Italian tourist Maria Elena Perrone, 18, was rescued on Thursday, but then had an agonising wait for news of her brother and parents, who were in a different cable cars. “It was terrible. My brother and parents had to stay up there and they were only wearing sweatshirts. When the Sun set, it was cold,” she said, sobbing. “For two-and-a-half hours we did not know what had happened and the cable cars were moving a lot when they were trying to untangle the cables.”