Tourists Rescued After 16 Hours in Gondola Suspended 12,500 Feet in the Air
Around 30 people spent a cold night above the highest point in the Alps waiting for rescue until morning.
Crews on Friday rescued dozens of tourists who had been stuck overnight in a cable car suspended nearly 12,500 feet above a glacier between the French and Italian Alps.
The incident began Thursday afternoon, when high winds caused the cable car lines between the peaks to become tangled and stopped the gondolas, trapping more than 100 people, according to the Associated Press.
Mountain rescue crews used helicopters to remove those trapped one by one, but the operation was suspended at nightfall on Thursday, leaving about 30 people to spend the night suspended next to Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps.
The cable car is a popular tourist attraction as it allows visitors to see spectacular views of the mountains.
The rescue proved difficult, as helicopter pilots needed to descend without getting the propellers caught in the cables. Crews had to remove people from the cars one at a time by strapping them to individual rescuers.
After conditions became foggy, rescuers continued to remove people from the cars closest to the ground using climbing ropes.
Several emergency workers stayed overnight with the stranded visitors to provide blankets, food, and water. Early on Friday morning, authorities were able to untangle the cable lines and slowly bring the remaining passengers to safety.
“The extent of this rescue operation is simply unbelievable,” Col. Frederic Labrunye, commander of the local gendarmerie, told the AP. “By the volume of people to rescue—we rarely rescue 110 people at the same time.”