Happy ending to Langkawi drama

GEORGE TOWN: More than 1,100 passengers and workers who were stranded when the Langkawi cable car system malfunctioned on Sunday have been rescued.

The incident caused several cable cars carrying 88 passengers to dangle in mid-air when the system stopped at about 5.45pm due to a faulty bearing, while 1,038 were marooned at the middle and top stations.

However, there were no reports of injury after the 1,126 passengers and workers were brought back to safety.

Meanwhile, some travel industry players have voiced dissatisfaction over how the authorities reacted to the situation.

Affected passengers also complained of hunger, dehydration and the lack of communication over the incident that lasted from 6pm until close to midnight.

Reports indicated that most of the tourists suffered anxious moments but managed to stay calm, while the operator worked to restore service.

It was reported that one person fainted and was rushed to the Langkawi Hospital.

The operator, Panorama Langkawi Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of the Langkawi Development Authority (Lada), took five hours to rectify the fault.

"They needed to do it manually to bring down the passengers from the gondolas and from the middle and top stations," said state Fire and Rescue Department spokesman Mohamad Mustakim Mukhtar.

Each gondola can carry up to eight passengers.

Lada chief executive officer Datuk Azizan Noordin noted that the cable car designer – Dopplemayer of Austria – was notified of the incident, and they would be dispatching a team of engineers to evaluate the system later this year.

The cable car is branded as the Langkawi Skycab and is one of 12 attractions located at the Mat Chinchang Range. It is about 5.9km long, making it the longest cable car system in the world. About 1.7km of it rises at a 45-degree angle, also making it the world's steepest cable car with the highest point surpassing 700m.

Azizan said that the Skycab was the number one attraction since it began operating 15 years ago, serving 1.5 million passengers last year.