SRINAGAR, INDIA (NYTIMES) A tree lashed by strong wind crashed onto a gondola cable in northern India on Sunday (June 25), sending two cars plunging to the rugged terrain below, police said. Seven passengers were thrown from the cars and died, and two others were injured.
About 150 people remained stranded in midair for several hours in other gondola cars until they were rescued by police, said Imtiyaz Hussain, senior police superintendent in the Baramulla district of Kashmir, who supervised the rescue.
Dangerous wind and dense forests hampered officers as they used a helicopter and all-terrain vehicles to search for the victims, who were described as a married couple and their two young daughters on vacation from New Delhi, two tour guides and a gondola operator.
Survivors described a violent lurch when the tree hit a support cable of the gondola in Gulmarg, a noted tourist attraction that carries sightseers about 5,000 feet up Kongdoori Mountain.
"It was panic for three hours that we were stuck on the cable car," Rekha Lakhanpal, who was in the car behind the two carrying the people who died, told The Hindustan Times. She said that as they waited, her group's guide talked to survivors in an effort to calm them.
Omar Abdullah, the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, said on Twitter that it was "laid down" standard operating procedure for the gondola not to run during high wind.
The state government in Jammu and Kashmir announced a high-level inquiry into the episode and said that the families of those who died would each receive a payment of 5,000,000 rupees, about $1.4 million.