Srinagar: Seven persons, including four of a family from Delhi, were killed and two persons were injured on Sunday after the Gondola (ropeway) in Kashmir’s premier resort of Gulmarg derailed. Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, has ordered an inquiry into the mishap and announced ex-gratia relief of Rs. 5 lakhs to the kind of each killed person.
The witnesses said that a cable car came crashing down from a height of, at least, 100 feet after derailing from a pulley. Officials said that the mishap occurred after a pine tree fell in the impact of strong winds on the Gondola, snapped the cables and brought one of the cable cars crashing to the ground. The victims have been identified a couple from Delhi’s Shalimar Bagh -Jayat Andraskar and Manisha Andraskar- and their daughters Anaga Jayant and Anushka Jayant and their local guide Mukhtar Ahmed, a resident of Chountpathri Babareshi (Gulmarg). Two others who also lost their life in the mishap are Jahangir Ahmad Khanday, also a guide, and Farooq Ahmad Chopan. The injured are Ajaz Ahmed Ganie and Tariq Ahmad Katariya.
Director Tourism Mahmood A. Shah who immediately rushed to the scene of occurrence said. “The very unfortunate happened due to felling of a tree in the impact of heavy winds over the ropeway between tower number 7 & 8 of the Cable Car Project. One cabin got derailed from its pulley and crashed down resulting into the tragic death of seven people.”
He said that a rescue operation was quickly started for about 100 other people who were stranded in other 15 cable cars. “Necessary efforts were made to take back the cabin, fixe the ropes and ferry stranded tourists back to Gulmarg bowl,’ Shah said. Officials in Gulmarg told over the phone that the service was restored after being stopped briefly.
The Gulmarg Gondola service has been operated successfully since 1998 when it was built by the French firm Pomagalski. The two-stage Gondola ferries about 600 people per hour to and from Kongdoori Mountain, a shoulder of nearby 13,780-feet-high Afarwat Peak. It is for the first time that the joint venture of the Jammu and Kashmir government and Pomagalski witnessed a deadly mishap.
Former Chief Minister and opposition National Conference (NC), Omar Abdullah, while expressing his condolences in a series of tweets, questioned why the service was not shut down during high winds as a precautionary measure. He tweeted, “If this is what happened it begs the question as to why the cable car operations weren't suspended in high winds. That's a laid down SOP".
The present incumbent Mehbooba Mufti has expressed grief and shock over the “tragic accident” and said that she was herself monitoring the rescue operations. She announced ex gratia relief of Rs. five lakh in favour of next of kin of those killed. She also directed conducting of a high level inquiry to know of the causes or lapses, if any, that led to the accident....