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All passengers are safe after rescue of dangling Pakistan cable car

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Across Pakistan and around the world, people have been watching a daring rescue. In a remote northwestern part of the country, a cable car dangled high over a ravine. Inside, schoolchildren were trapped for hours. Now all eight of the passengers have been rescued. Abdul Sattar is a journalist who's been following this story from Islamabad. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

ABDUL SATTAR: Thanks a lot.

SHAPIRO: Tell us what happened today.

SATTAR: Well, first, it's important to note that students in some parts of the mountainous northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa go to school every day in a cable car. So this morning, at around 7 a.m. local time, six students and two teachers got in their vehicle, as usual. Five minutes later, the cable car stopped because one of the three wires that hold the vehicle broke down. Witnesses then called upon local police for help. But as you can imagine, the cable car dangling up in the air was incredibly difficult to reach. So eventually local police got in touch with the army, and the Pakistan army sent in a helicopter. Locals also used the zipline to send food and water to those trapped inside the cable car. In the meantime, footage of this situation began to widely circulate on the internet. Local media, as well as international press, flocked into the region to report the story. It's a media spectacle in Pakistan as well as elsewhere.

SHAPIRO: Yeah, the images were just incredible - a helicopter hovering over a dangling rescuer suspended over a cable car, which was over a ravine. So what are the challenges of a rescue like that?

SATTAR: Yes. Luckily, the weather today was fine, but the biggest uncertainty in the operation was the wind. So it was not easy, even with the helicopter flying in. And after spending hours and rescuing two students, the authorities had to call off the operation. But shortly afterwards, a private zipline company stepped in. They used more traditional methods to pull the trapped passengers out of the cable car. Four hours later, authorities reported that all the remaining trapped students were out.

SHAPIRO: This incident makes me think of other rescues that have become a focus of international attention and a source of national pride. I'm thinking about the Thai children rescued from a cave in 2018 or the trapped Chilean miners in 2010. This obviously unfolded much more quickly, and I know the rescue only just happened. But can you tell us about how people are responding to the news that all of the passengers now have been brought safely to the ground?

SATTAR: Obviously, those who are still following twists and turns are pretty galvanized by the development. It's a rare moment of joy in a country that's been mired in multiple crises. Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, the acting Pakistani prime minister, said he was relieved to know that all the children have been safely and successfully rescued. He congratulated the military, district administration, as well as the local people for all the efforts they had met.

SHAPIRO: That's Abdul Sattar, a journalist based in Islamabad, Pakistan. Thank you very much.

SATTAR: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF TERRACE MARTIN SONG, "THIS MORNING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Abdul Sattar
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