More than 100 people were trapped Thursday on a broken cable car in the Western France city of Chamonix, prompting local officials to launch rescue missions via helicopters. The cable car was suspended over the gondola of the Panoramic Mont Blanc — connecting the Aiguille du Midi to Helbronner peak — which is approximately 11,358 feet above sea level.
Two civil security helicopters, French and Swiss, along with a private aircraft were delpoyed to get the 100 passengers back to safety, while helicopters from nearby Italy were requested for reinforcement.
Chamonix Mayor Eric Fournier told BMTV there is "nothing fundamentally to fear" and he is optimistic trapped travelers will make it back down safely while rescuers “implement expeditiously all necessary operations to bring these people into the valley.”
According to Mathieu Dechavanne, CEO of the gondola management company, the mission “will take some time, but the weather is good,” so rescuers have an even better chance of securing passengers.
While speaking with Swiss Info, Dechavanne said officials have been in contact with the passengers.
"We are in relationship with customers. They have water and means of communication but are beginning to find the time long," he said.
The cable car stopped running around 5:30 p.m. local time for "unexplained reasons."
The scenic Panoramic Mont Blanc gondola links France to Italy within 35 minutes. It is also a popular tourist attraction for skiers and winter sport enthusiasts.
Incidents of this capacity are not very common in Chamonix. The last accident on the Panoramic Mont Blanc gondola was in May 2013, when one of the cable cars caught fire while transporting more than 200 passengers. Tourists managed to quell the flames, but engineers were unable to repair the engine and get the cable car back running. It took two helicopters 45 trips to get riders back to safety.