Updated: April 12, 2022 2:29:23 pm
THE CHILLING sight of a man falling to his death from a helicopter on Monday during a rescue operation captured the trauma of a tense 30 hours in Jharkhand’s Deoghar, where at least two people were killed in separate incidents triggered by the malfunctioning of a ropeway the previous evening.
By Monday evening, 43 people had been rescued from 24 cable cars on the 770-m ropeway to the Trikut hills, which is a popular tourist spot. Eleven of them were rescued on Sunday evening, including a woman who succumbed later to injuries sustained inside a cable car that “swung wildly” during the mishap, officials and eyewitnesses said.
At least 15 people, including an IAF Garud commando, were still stuck on the ropeway with some without food and water inside cable cars that could not be accessed by rescuers. “We are hoping that the rescue operation will be over by tomorrow. We will be starting early in the morning,” National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) D-G Atul Karwal said.
Deoghar Deputy Commissioner Manjunath Bhajantri said: “A pulley of one of the trollies got stuck resulting in the incident.”
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Video courtesy: IAF pic.twitter.com/JIaQFmvkPP
Sources told The Indian Express that a probe has also begun on how the man fell from the rescue helicopter when he appeared to lose his grip after having been hauled up from a cable car. The two victims have not been officially identified yet, rescue officers said.
Jharkhand Tourism Department director Rahul Sinha said the ropeway’s axle got dislodged between 4 pm and 4.30 pm on Sunday, resulting in the ropeway stopping midway.
“Efforts were made to provide relief to those still stuck in the cable cars by running a parallel line and throwing food and water across 10-15 feet. But there were some cable cars with doors on the other side. Passengers stuck there couldn’t receive any help,” a senior official involved in the rescue operation said.
Footages and pics from Deoghar. As of now, 18 people have been rescued and 30 still stranded. Rescue ops on. Indian Army, AirForce, ITBP and NDRF is there: Deputy Commissioner Manjunath Bhajantri. @IndianExpress pics: District Admin. pic.twitter.com/ADkka2HQT9
— Abhishek Angad (@abhishekangad) April 11, 2022
Officials identified the Garud commando as a member of a rescue team who stayed back in a cable car with one other occupant who could not be rescued before the light faded and rescue operations, which were conducted through two Mi-17 V-5 IAF helicopters, were called off for the day.
“The Garud commando got stuck as there was still one passenger in that cable car who had not been rescued. It was felt that it would be wise if the commando stayed there to ensure the passenger didn’t panic through the night,” another official said.
— IPRD Jharkhand (@prdjharkhand) April 11, 2022
The NDRF has deployed two teams, with a DIG and a Commandant leading the operation, while the ITBP has sent separate teams from Ranchi for the rescue operation. Deoghar Deputy Commissioner Manjunath Bhajantri said requests were also made to the Army and IAF for the “challenging” task.
“The terrain is very difficult as the cable cars are suspended at an angle and the Air Force personnel had to take care that the choppers did not touch them. The harnessing and airlifting of people were done in a coordinated manner. Unfortunately, one person slipped during the rescue and fell down on a field, resulting in his death,” Bhajantri said.
He added that food packets and water were supplied through maintenance cars to those still stranded.
Tourism director Sinha said the ropeway was being operated by Damodar Ropeways and Infra Ltd, which had the contract from 2014 to 2019. “Due to Covid, the contract was not renewed but they were operating it,” he said. Officials of the Kolkata-based company were not available for comment.
“An inquiry will be initiated after which we will come to know the exact cause of the incident. The engineers of the company reached the spot but repair work would not be possible as long as people are still inside the cable cars,” said Amitabh Kaushal, Principal Secretary, Jharkhand Disaster Management Department.
One of the local guides, Praful Singh, told The Indian Express that he was at the base when the ropeway stalled. “Within seconds, the cable cars were swinging wildly in the air. One of the staff, Panna Lal, climbed on the ropeway carrying ropes and rescued some people before the administration arrived. One of the women was injured and bleeding,” he said.
“On Monday, I went up in the morning to give a signal to the Air Force people to show where they could start the rescue work. Later, help was taken from a local drone operator who accompanied the rescue team in the maintenance car to provide water and food to people who could not be reached on Sunday,” Singh said.
“Those who were stuck were panicking and some were crying out loud. All of them were asking for water. They were shouting, ‘Hua kya hai, kya hum log kabhi nikal payenge (What has happened? Will we be able to escape)’?”
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