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Death toll in Italian cable car crash rises to 14

Italy’s ministry of infrastructure said the accident appeared to have been caused by a ruptured cable near the top of the route.

Rescuers work by the wreckage of a cable car after it falls in north Italy's Piedmont region.
Rescuers work by the wreckage of a cable car after it falls in north Italy's Piedmont region.
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

FOURTEEN PEOPLE HAVE died, including five Israelis, when a cable car slammed into the side of a mountain in northern Italy, emergency services said.

An Israeli couple living in Italy died, while their five-year-old was fighting for his life with brain trauma and broken legs, according to the Alpine rescue service.

A nine-year-old Italian child was also among the dead, it said, adding that the toll could rise further from the accident in Stresa, a resort town on the shores of Lake Maggiore in Italy’s Piedmont region, it said.

President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Mario Draghi expressed their “profound grief”, offering condolences to the victims’ families as regional as well as EU leaders expressed their sorrow and shock.

The 20-minute cable car ride, popular with tourists, links Stresa with the 1,500-metre summit of the Mottarone mountain, and offers spectacular views of the Alps.

The ministry of infrastructure said in a statement that the accident occurred around 12.30pm (11.30am Irish time) as the cabin, with 15 people aboard and a maximum capacity of 35, was about 100 metres from the summit.

The ministry said the accident appeared to have been caused by a ruptured cable near the top of the route.

italy-cable-car-crash Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Stresa Mayor Marcella Severino said the cable car “began to go backwards (and) probably hit a pylon.”

Infrastructure Minister Enrico Giovannini announced an inquiry into what he called “a dramatic occurrence which we are following most attentively”.

Down in the village, people were stunned by the news of the accident.

“I came to Stresa with a group of friends. Our plan was to go up Mount Mottarone because the view is beautiful from there,” said Luisa Tesserin, a 27-year-old student from Genoa.

“We got on the cable car an hour before the tragedy. When we got on, the cable car didn’t give any strange signals, everything was fine. When they told us the news, we were shocked,” Tesserin told AFP.

‘Maintenance done’

“All the maintenance has been done. They’ve spent a lot of money, they’ve done a lot of work,” Angelo Garavaglia, the 59-year-old owner of the Idrovolante restaurant at the foot of the cable car, told AFP.

“I think it was an accident because the system is in good order, the maintenance companies are leaders in Italy. It was an accident: it’s up to the technicians to explain what happened,” he added.

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Regional president Alberto Cirio said he was “devastated” at what he termed “an enormous tragedy which takes our breath away”.

Giovanni Toti, president of the neighbouring region of Liguria, noted that the accident occurred just as Italy was emerging from months of Covid-related restrictions.

Sunday, he said, was supposed to have been “a day of reopening rich in hope”.

European Council President Charles Michel sent out a tweet in Italian expressing his “most sincere condolences to the families and friends who have lost a loved one in this tragic accident”.

Milan prosecutors opened an investigation into involuntary homicide and negligence.

Fire service images showed debris from the white and red cabin in a steep wooded area where access appeared difficult.

The cable car was closed between 2014 and 2016 for maintenance work.

© – AFP 2021

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