The 33 passengers who found themselves stuck in mid-air at a high altitude overnight in French Alps were all rescued by Friday morning.
According to CNN, the cable cars stopped unexpectedly around 4:30 p.m. local time when the cables crossed over each other on Thursday between Aiguille du Midi in France and Pointe Helbronner in Italy. 110 Passengers were suspended just less than 4 000 meters in the air, most of whom were able to be brought to safety by French and Italian rescue teams. The remaining 33, however, were not as fortunate and had to brave the frosty night until the rescue teams were able to assist them early Friday morning.
Rescue teams used helicopters to help passengers to safety, however, when night fell they could no longer continue with the evacuation mission and had to wait until the next day.
One of the overnight passengers, Clément Delisle, spoke to French television channel BFMTV about his experience suspended so high in freezing conditions. He reported that he, along with the others, had spent a sleepless night filled with fear, boredom and intense cold. He mentioned that initially, he, his friends and family were comforted by the survival kits which included a blanket, cereal bars, water and extra food.
However, as the night turned into early morning, the survival blankets proved to be ineffective in protecting them from the cold. Clément had said that around two a.m. they started to realize that in fact, the glacier mountain was quite cold. Then at around four a.m., the blankets provided did nothing to warm their bodies.
To combat the boredom the passengers experienced, they tried to keep themselves busy through playing games and using the phone.
“It got boring after awhile, then we chatted with the other people. We also called a lot on the phone to get information or updates, and we were a little scared. We got bored a lot,” Clément said.
Delisle also mentioned that there was a Korean family in the cable car ahead of them, whom Delisle had said were in greater trouble because they did not understand the language and thus did not comprehend what was happening. He and his family showed them where they were told the survival kits were kept and tried to reassure them.
Rescue mission saves the day
Early Friday morning, the remaining passengers still suspended high in the air were brought down to safety. Antoine Burnet, marketing director for the company that runs the cable service Mont Blanc, stated that the international passengers were “tired but calm” at the time of their rescue. Medical services attended to them upon their descent.
An Italian mountain guide who was involved in the rescue mission, Mario Mochet, reported that in situations such as these, people’s first reaction tends to be panic then hours later they are overcome by gratitude to have been rescued.
Burnet suspects that it was the strong winds that caused the cables to cross. However, he assured an investigation would be conducted.
Source: The New York Times