Tourists airlifted from Tenerife volcano after cable car fails


More than 100 tourists spent night on Mount Teide, Spains highest peak, while dozens were trapped in gondolas

The Spanish emergency services have rescued 250 people from a volcano on Tenerife after a cable car service broke down, leaving dozens of passengers trapped in two gondolas and forcing more than 100 to spend the night at high altitude.

Firefighters, Guardia Civil officers and other rescue workers were scrambled to the Teide volcano on Wednesday afternoon after the system suffered an apparent malfunction.

Spanish firemen rescue passengers from a cable car. Photograph: Ramn de la Rocha/EPA

More than half the passengers including 70 who were lowered 40 metres (120ft) from the stranded cars to the ground using ropes, harnesses and pulleys were rescued. The cable cars failure meant 111 people, including eight children, had to spend the night in cabins on the volcano.

By midday on Thursday, four helicopters had collected 57 of those stranded overnight, while others walked down accompanied by rescue workers.

An Agence France-Presse photographer at the scene said many of those evacuated by helicopter were wearing shorts and sandals.

There is no serious injury, some people were dizzy, had high blood pressure, some scrapes, light injuries, a local emergency services spokeswoman said. Psychologists were also on hand to assist people.

The authorities did not provide details on the nationalities of the tourists who became trapped, but the AFP photographer said the majority were foreigners, including Australian and British citizens.

The volcanos cable car operator said the incident had been caused after a security lock was triggered automatically for unknown reasons. It added that emergency protocols had been followed and that those forced to spend the night on the volcano had been provided with medical help, warm clothes and food.

The cable car system and surrounding roads remained closed on Thursday as the rescue operation wound down and an investigation began. Operators said the system would not reopen until Saturday at the earliest.

Mount Teide, whose summit is more than 3,700 metres (12,000ft) above sea level, is Spains highest peak and a popular tourist destination.

The cable car was inaugurated in 1971, and it was renovated between 1999 and 2007. The cables and towers were also replaced, according to its website.

The stations were remodelled. All the machinery and the electrical centre were also renewed. The security and control systems were changed and a periodic maintenance and safety plan was established.

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