Langkawi cable car draws crowds after it reopens

Tourists stranded on Gunung Machinchang lining up to get into the gondolas to take them down when the system was restored on Sunday night.
Tourists stranded on Gunung Machinchang lining up to get into the gondolas to take them down when the system was restored on Sunday night.PHOTO: BERNAMA

LANGKAWI • The operator of the cable car on Malaysia's Langkawi island said it will conduct a probe to find out why the system broke down on Sunday, leaving more than 1,000 people stranded for some seven hours atop a mountain.

But yesterday, tourists seemed unfazed by the incident, with thousands of them lining up to take the gondola lifts to the top of Gunung Machinchang as soon as the cable car operator reopened its system.

Panorama Langkawi, which runs the Langkawi SkyCab cable car on the holiday island, said an investigation will be carried out, Bernama news agency reported.

Panorama Langkawi board member Azizan Noordin said a faulty bearing was identified as the reason for the breakdown, but the probe will look into how to prevent a similar incident in the future.

Sunday's incident was the worst involving the cable car system since it opened in 2002.

The company is a subsidiary of the government's Langkawi Development Authority.

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.

Datuk Azizan, who is also the Langkawi Development Authority's chief executive officer, said 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 16 gondolas to the base station.

He said the system allowed for slow, manual operation of the gondolas, enabling staff to ferry some of the tourists down and for spare parts to be sent up to the middle station, where they were fitted to restore the system, the news agency said.

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.

"The whole system was restored at around 11pm and we were able to evacuate the rest of the stranded tourists and staff," he said.

A video and pictures of the rescue effort spread online showed crowds of people rushing to get into the gondolas once the system was restored.

The authorities provided accommodation for the night and arranged alternative travel for tourists who missed their flights.

Still, tourists yesterday appeared to be unperturbed about what had happened a day earlier as they queued up to pay to ride the gondolas to the top of the mountain, 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.

When the cable car resumed service at noon yesterday, more than 3,000 tourists had tickets to go the top, Mr Azizan was quoted by The Malaysia Insight news website as saying.

There were no cancellations from tourists who had booked tickets earlier, he added.

"The figure recorded so far today remained within the average daily figures of between 3,000 to 5,000 passengers," he said yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2018, with the headline 'Langkawi cable car draws crowds after it reopens'. Print Edition | Subscribe