LANGKAWI (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, BERNAMA) - Follow-up action on the cable car malfunction in Malaysia's Langkawi island on Sunday (Feb 18) could include a briefing to the Chinese Embassy after the post-mortem, the government's Langkawi Development Authority (Lada) said.
Lada, whose Panorama Langkawi subsidiary runs the Langkawi SkyCab on the holiday island, has gone into damage control mode after more than 1,000 tourists became stranded following the breakdown on Sunday.
About half of the affected tourists were from China.
Panorama Langkawi said on Monday a faulty bearing had caused the breakdown and left 16 of the Langkawi SkyCab service's 60 gondolas suspended in mid-air.
It said an investigation would be carried out in order to prevent a similar incident in the future.
"It's definitely something no tourist would want to experience," chief executive officer Azizan Noordin said at the Lada office in Langkawi on Monday.
"We will explain the glitch to prevent a backlash that could greatly affect the tourism business," Datuk Azizan said. "About 3,000 tourists use the cable car service every day, and about 5,000 during the festive season."
Altogether, 1,048 tourists and 78 cable-car operator staff were stranded for seven hours before being rescued in stages from 9pm on Sunday, Bernama reported. The breakdown occurred at 5.48pm.
Sunday's incident was the worst involving the cable car system since it opened in 2002.
The cable car system starts at the base station at the foot of the mountain, and passes by a middle station on its way to the final station at the top.
Panorama Langkawi's technical team was able to mobilise the cable car system manually at about 9pm to get 88 tourists who were trapped inside the 16 gondolas to the base station.
"The cable cars are in tip-top condition as they are checked and serviced every day," said Azizan. "It is unfortunate that this happened without warning," he added.
Langkawi Member of Parliament Nawawi Ahmad, who was also at the Lada office, said the post-mortem would look at implementing the latest technology to detect any faults.
"We already have an advance computerised system but there could be newer tools available that would be applicable to us," he said.
"The SkyCab is 15 years old. It's the steepest cable car system in the world, at 45º, and this was the first time such a glitch happened. Safety is our number one priority," Datuk Nawawi said.
The gondolas bring tourists to the top of Gunung Machinchang, where a viewing platform gives them panoramic views of Langkawi and its outer islands, and southern Thailand.
The viewing platform sits some 708m above sea level.
Despite the breakdown, it was business as usual for the cable car service on Monday with large crowd swarming the ticket counters.
Li Yan Ju, an engineer from China, took a ride on the cable car with his family of eight. "It was an exhilarating experience for me and my family," said Li, 38, as he exited a gondola. "I was not aware of what happened as I only arrived today," he added when told of Sunday's incident.