The ropeway to Palani temple stops suddenly due to technical snag
In a mid-air drama that lasted more than three hours, 28 pilgrims were left dangling some 200 metres above the ground when the ropeway to the famous temple here stopped suddenly due to a technical snag on Wednesday morning.
The incident happened around 8.00 a.m. between the ground station and the Sri Dhandayuthapaniswamy hill temple. Thirteen people were in four cabins climbing up to the temple and 15 in the other four cabins heading down.
The metal shaft that regulated the ropeway’s speed suddenly broke, causing it to come to a grinding halt and preventing upward and downward movement, said technical team members.
The rope car maintenance crew and fire service personnel struggled in windy conditions for three hours and a half to rescue those trapped.
First, maintenance crew member Saravanan crawled on the iron rope from ground station to reach the first cabin hanging near to it. Simultaneously, other members - Murugan and Azhagarsamy - too descended on the rope from the hill station to reach the other set of four cabins.
Meanwhile, a 20-member medical team including 13 doctors from the Palani Government Hospital reached the spot with equipment and medicines. Some pilgrims lay on cabin floor. Glucose and drinking water were supplied to pilgrims. Milk was also lifted to feed trapped children.
Initially, a rope ladder was fastened to a car to rescue them. Later, the team altered its plan and used cane swing chairs to rescue the pilgrims safely. Later, the pilgrims were sent by a winch to the hill temple for darshan. The temple authorities suspended the ropeway services indefinitely.
“I was completely terrified when the strong wind swung the cars. But Lord Subramaniaswamy saved me,” said Raja, a pilgrim from Theni who was gripped by fear during the experience.
“We were hanging in the air for more than an hour, but the rescue team offered water and consoled us, said Vinodhini of Palghat.
“I lost my hope. It was a horrible and haunting experience, said Vijayan of Changanacherry.
When contacted, HR&CE Joint Commissioner P. Baskaran said top priority was given for pilgrims’ safety. Hydraulic ladders would be purchased to rescue pilgrims in case of emergency.
In August 2007, four pilgrims were killed as two cabins of the rope car slipped and fell into a 300-metre-deep gorge.