One more person died on Monday after falling from a chopper during a rescue operation for trapped passengers following malfunction of a ropeway in Jharkhand's Deoghar district, pushing the toll to two, officials said.
Around 32 people have so far been rescued while 15 people remain trapped mid-air in a row of cable cars, nearly 28 hours after the accident took place around 20 km from the famous Baba Baidyanth temple in Deoghar town.
One person had died late on Sunday and 12 people were injured.
The rescued passengers were airlifted with the help of two Indian Air Force helicopters, Deoghar Deputy Commissioner Manjunath Bhajantri said. The ropeway which runs through a picturesque and densely-forested valley is surrounded by hills, making the operation difficult, except by air.
"Thirty-two people were rescued with the help of choppers, while 15 people are still trapped mid-air in the cable cars suspended at varying heights, the maximum being nearly 1,500 feet. The rescue operation had to be stopped after sunset and will resume tomorrow," Additional Director General of Police, R K Mallick, told PTI over phone from the spot.
Mallick said there is heavy security deployment in the area and the rescue effort by joint teams of the Air Force, the Army, ITBP and NDRF will recommence early on Tuesday.
He also confirmed that one person fell from a chopper in the course of rescue and was rushed to hospital, where he died.
According to Deoghar Civil Surgeon C K Sahi, he succumbed to injuries after falling from a considerable height.
Local BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, however, claimed three people were killed in the accident that took place around 4 pm on Sunday.
Drones were used to supply food and water to those who remain trapped mid-air in the cable cars. Eleven of the stranded tourists were rescued Sunday night.
Expressing sorrow over the incident, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren said rescue and relief operations are being conducted on war footing.
"The government is keeping a close watch on the situation," he said.
Jharkhand Governor Ramesh Bais said: "The accident on the ropeway built on Trikut mountain of Deoghar, a world-famous religious place, is very sad and painful. I express my deepest condolences to the families of the deceased and pray to Baba Baidyanath for the speedy recovery of the injured."
Health Minister Banna Gupta said an enquiry will be conducted and action would be taken against those found guilty of negligence.
The injured people were rescued and hospitalised, Bhajantri said, adding, one passenger died of injuries on Sunday after the accident that saw cable cars colliding with each other, due to a fault in the ropeway system.
The 766-metre Trikut ropeway, according to the Jharkhand Tourism Department, is India's highest vertical ropeway.
Sandip, who was stuck in a trolley for 19 hours, said, "I feel Baba Baidyanath gave me a second life. I can't explain the harrowing experience in a hanging trolley overnight. It was frightening."
He said the power supply of the trolley suddenly went off and it stopped mid-way.
"When I called on the helpline number around 4 pm on Sunday, I was told that it stopped due to a technical snag, which is being rectified. I again called them around 7 pm. They said the ropeway is not working and we will be rescued on Monday.
Added Devang Jaipal from West Bengal, "After offering prayers at Baba Baidyanath temple, I wanted to enjoy nature on this ropeway ride... who knew that I would be hanging in a trolley for a whole night?"
"With no food and water, we had a sleepless night on Sunday. On Monday, we were given some food and water through drones. Thanks to the administration for saving our lives," he said.
Meanwhile, BJP vice-president and former Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das accused the state government of being inactive, even after such a major accident, and claimed that ministers hailing from the region did not visit the site.
"The government did not care about the lives of the people. The inability to make quick decisions resulted in passengers hanging in the air overnight," Das said.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah is keeping an eye on the entire incident, he said.
He also demanded that the Jharkhand government provide a compensation of Rs 1 crore to the next of kin of the deceased.
A similar cable car accident two-and-a-half years back in the ski-resort of Gulmarg, where the ropeway had snapped, resulted in a family of four and three tourist guides crashing to their death. Another ropeway accident in January 2019 in Jammu had caused the death of two workers. PTI CORR BS SAN NAM NN JRC RBT