Photos shared on social media by rescuers showed a mangled cable car, along with at least two downed cables, next to rows of pine trees high above Lake Maggiore. The collapse occurred at a relatively high point on the cable car's 20-minute ride, which starts lakeside and leads to a popular vista about 5,000 feet above sea level, an area that includes a ski resort and an amusement park.
"The fall was obviously significant," Walter Milan of the Alpine rescue service told Rai News 24. He said the cables were particularly high off the ground at that point on the course.
Infrastructure Minister Enrico Giovannini said there would be a government inquiry into the incident.
According to the newspaper Corriere della Sera, the cable car system had reopened April 24 after a closure during Italy's coronavirus-related lockdown. The system had been renovated in 2016, the newspaper said, undergoing a high-tech examination of the cable tightness. The cabins were also upgraded.
The cable car system's website says the service was inaugurated in 1970, with two cars and one stop at a midway point between the lakeside and mountaintop. The site says the cable car is an "integral part" of tourism in the area, which is 75 minutes by car from Milan.
Politicians and other Italian figures expressed sadness about the collapse.
"With shock, I am following the news of the tragedy of the cable car #Verbania #Mottorone on a Sunday that should have been one of sunshine and hope and which for many families will be one of mourning and despair," tweeted Enrico Letta, head of Italy's Democratic Party.
"A prayer for the children admitted in serious condition," said Attilio Fontana, governor of the Lombardy region, the site of the collapse.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi said in a statement that he was in touch with local authorities and civil protection.
"I express the condolences of the entire government to the families of the victims, with a special thought for the children who were seriously injured and their families," Draghi said.
Italy has been no stranger to deadly infrastructure-related accidents, most recently in 2018, when a highway bridge in Genoa collapsed during a torrential rainstorm, killing more than 40. Italy also suffered a ski gondola disaster in 1998, though it was not an infrastructure failure but a freak incident: A U.S. Marine Corps aircraft, flying too low, severed a cable, causing 20 people to plunge to their deaths.
Published : May 23, 2021
By : The Washington Post · Chico Harlan