THE CHILLING sight of a man falling to his death from a helicopter on Monday during a rescue operation captured the trauma of a tense 30 hours in Jharkhand’s Deoghar, where at least two people were killed in separate incidents triggered by the malfunctioning of a ropeway the previous evening.
By Monday evening, 43 people had been rescued from 24 cable cars on the 770-m ropeway to the Trikut hills, which is a popular tourist spot.
Eleven of them were rescued on Sunday evening, including a woman who succumbed later to injuries sustained inside a cable car that “swung wildly” during the mishap, officials and eyewitnesses said.
At least 15 people, including an IAF Garud commando, were still stuck on the ropeway with some without food and water inside cable cars that could not be accessed by rescuers.
“We are hoping that the rescue operation will be over by tomorrow. We will be starting early in the morning,” National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) D-G Atul Karwal said.
Sources told The Indian Express that a probe has also begun on how the man fell from the rescue helicopter when he appeared to lose his grip after having been hauled up from a cable car.
The two victims have not been officially identified yet, rescue officers said.Jharkhand Tourism Department director Rahul Sinha said the ropeway’s axle got dislodged between 4 pm and 4.30 pm on Sunday, resulting in the ropeway stopping midway.
“Efforts were made to provide relief to those still stuck in the cable cars by running a parallel line and throwing food and water across 10-15 feet. But there were some cable cars with doors on the other side. Passengers stuck there couldn’t receive any help,” a senior official involved in the rescue operation said.
Officials identified the Garud commando as a member of a rescue team who stayed back in a cable car with one other occupant who could not be rescued before the light faded and rescue operations, which were conducted through two Mi-17 V-5 IAF helicopters, were called off for the day.
“The Garud commando got stuck as there was still one passenger in that cable car who had not been rescued. It was felt that it would be wise if the commando stayed there to ensure the passenger didn’t panic through the night,” another official said.
The NDRF has deployed two teams, with a DIG and a Commandant leading the operation, while the ITBP has sent separate teams from Ranchi for the rescue operation. Deoghar Deputy Commissioner Manjunath Bhajantri said requests were also made to the Army and IAF for the “challenging” task.