Seven people, including four of a Delhi family, were killed and four others injured when strong winds uprooted a pine tree, which, in turn, hit the Gulmarg cable car ropeway causing it to derail on Sunday afternoon. This is the first such incident in the history of the 19-year-old Gulmarg Gondola project, the second highest operating cable car in the world. “We have recovered seven bodies. Four of them are tourists and three are local tourist guides,” Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Baramulla Mir Imtiyaz told The Indian Express.
The family of four, comprising a couple and their two daughters, were taking a joyride on the cable car — between Gulmarg and Kongdori — at the time of the incident. The four have been identified as Jayant Andraskar, his wife Manisha Andraskar and their two daughters Anagha Andraskar and Jahnavi Andraskar.
“They (the Andraskar family) had arrived in Gulmarg on Sunday and were supposed to stay here for a night,” said Kashmir Tourism Director, Mehmood Ahmad Shah.
Shameem Ahmed, managing director, Cable Car Corporation, said, “The ropeway did not snap. After the tree hit the ropeway, it got derailed, came out of the pulley, hit the ground and rebounded,” adding, “We had conducted a statutory safety audit only a month ago.”
By late Sunday afternoon, however, the ropeway was restored and over 50 people stranded in the gondola cabs were rescued. The J&K government has announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for each victim. “Although we believe that it is a natural calamity, we will order a formal inquiry into the circumstances that led to it,” said J&K government spokesman and PWD Minister Naeem Akhtar. He added that 48 tourists and 18 tourist guides were rescued. He also said that 17 of the 35 Gondola cabs were empty at the time of the incident.
Soon after the mishap, police and civil administration assisted by local volunteers launched a rescue operation. “A lot of locals, especially operators of All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), helped police in rescue mission,” SSP Imtiyaz said, adding, “They would be rewarded by the police department”.