A series of cable cars carrying tourists stopped working at high altitude over the Mont Blanc massif in the Alps prompting a major rescue operation and leaving 45 people trapped in midair overnight.
Four helicopters were deployed after 110 people became stuck when the cable cars stalled because of a “technical incident,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said. He said the helicopters rescued 65 people before efforts were suspended for the night because of rough flight conditions.
First aid workers were transported to the site and will spend the night in the cable cars with those who are trapped, Cazeneuve said. Rescuers provided blankets, food and water to help weather the chilly mountain conditions overnight.
The cable car, which offers spectacular up-close views of Western Europe’s tallest mountains and deep valleys below, connects the Aiguille de Midi peak in France, at 3,842 metres, to Pointe Helbronner in Italy, at 3,462 meters.
Cables carrying the Panoramic Mont Blanc cars reportedly tangled around 4 pm local time. Workers from the operating company tried to untangle the lines but failed. They alerted authorities and French and Italian mountain rescue specialists were brought by helicopter to evacuate passengers.
Passengers were transferred to other cable cars that brought them down the mountain to Courmayeur in Italy. Descending from the cable cars, one passenger told reporters “it ended well” despite five or six hours suspended midair in cold mountain conditions.
French police said the evacuation was suspended at 9.30 pm.