Tourists helicoptered out of Swiss ski resort after cable car breaks down


Helicopters have been used to evacuate nearly 300 people from a high-mountain station in the Swiss Alps after a cable car to the top broke down.

A technical problem was detected on Thursday morning involving a cable car up to the popular Glacier 3000 ski resort in Les Diablerets mountain massif in south-western Switzerland, the station chief said.

“There was an electrical failure in the engine system in the second [cable car] section up to the top,” the Glacier 3000 chief executive, Bernhard Tschannen, told AFP.

“It was not a big deal. No one was harmed,” he said.

He explained that the cable car was equipped with a special engine for such occasions, making it possible to evacuate the tourists onboard.

Initially, the tourists at the top station, located at an altitude of 2,971 metres (9,747ft), were asked to just wait and enjoy the spectacular views while the technical staff attempted to fix the problem.

“The weather was beautiful,” Tschannen said, adding that people had been given drinks and food at the mountaintop restaurant while they waited.

But shortly before 1pm, it was decided to evacuate the station, he said. About 270 people, most of them tourists, were taken by chairlift down to the glacier below, where they were picked up by helicopter.

Two helicopters were used for the operation, flying people to the middle station, where they could catch the still-functioning chairlift on the first section back down to Col du Pillon, at 1,546 metres above sea level.

Tschannen said the evacuation had taken less than two hours. Some technical staff had remained at the top to continue working on the problem.

“We hope that tomorrow everything will be working again and we can open as normal, but that needs to be confirmed,” he said.

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