Cable car failure traps hundreds

LONG WAIT: Service on the Maokong system was shut down at 4:50pm. Passengers waited until 5:50pm to be evacuated with the last few reaching safety at 6:55pm

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sun, Jul 22, 2007 - Page 2

Some 300 visitors were trapped in the cabins of Taipei's Maokong cable car system yesterday afternoon for about an hour due to an equipment failure on a sizzling summer day as the temperature soared to a high of 38.6oC.

The equipment failure occurred at 4:50pm at the Corner One Station (轉角一站) and left 323 passengers in 57 cabins hanging in mid-air, system operator Taipei Rapid Transit Corp (TRTC) said.

"We have activated the rescue mode to evacuate passengers. It's a mechanical failure and we will ensure that every visitor returns to the ground safely," TRTC vice president Tan Kuo-kuang (譚國光) said.

Tan said POMA of France, the system's builder, sent engineers to fix the problem as the company's workers evacuated the passengers.

The evacuation began at 5:50pm. The last passengers were evacuated from the system at around 6:55pm.

The Taipei City Department of Health later also sent ambulances and medical staff from nearby Taipei Wangfang Hospital to assist passengers that might be suffering heat-related injuries.

After waiting in a cable car cabin for more than 40 minutes before returning to the station, a passenger from Kaohsiung expressed his frustration over the breakdown.

"It's like sitting in an oven ... I am very disappointed with the cable car," he said.

Since its operation earlier this month, the cable car has experienced several shutdowns caused by lighting strikes, thundershowers or mechanical failures.

On Friday, a visitor to the Maokong system suffered from a minor head injury after being hit by a digital video camera that was dropped from above by another visitor.

That incident marked the first visitor injury for the system.

The Central Weather Bureau said that yesterday's temperature of 38.6oC yesterday matched the high on July 31, 1921, for the hottest day recorded in the nation's history.

Additional reporting by CNA