Fourteen people, including at least one child, have been killed after a cable car crash on a mountain near Lake Maggiore in northern Italy on Sunday. Another child is seriously injured.
The cable car service runs from the lakeside resort town of Stresa to the Mottarone mountain in the Piedmont region.
The majority of the victims died at the crash site. The death toll climbed steadily as rescuers found victims in the wreckage and across the mountainside.
Officials say two children survived the crash. Airlifted to hospital in Turin, one child later died. The younger child, aged around five and an Israeli national, underwent emergency surgery and is in critical condition.
“We are devastated,” Marcella Severino, mayor of Stresa, told broadcaster RAI.
How did the cable car crash happen?
Around 12:30 local time on Sunday, the cabin fell about 20metres to the ground and rolled down the slope before being stopped by trees, according to Mayor Severino.
The cause remains unclear, but local reports suggest the cable failed around 300 metres from the top of the mountain.
Walter Milan, an alpine rescue spokesman, told television network RaiNews24 that the cable car was left “crumpled”.
Difficult conditions for rescue
The terrain is steep, making it difficult for rescuers to reach the site. A fire service vehicle overturned while responding; no-one was injured.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi described the crash as a “tragic accident” and said he was receiving updates from local and national officials. “I express the condolences of the whole government to the families of the victims, with a special thought for the seriously injured children and their families,” he said in a statement.
Stresa’s mayor said victims were found both inside and outside the wreckage of the cable car.
Infrastructure Minister Enrico Giovannini announced an inquiry into the incident. The local prosecutor’s office is also opening an investigation.
EU Council President Charles Michel offered his condolences in a tweet written in Italian, adding that “Europe is in mourning with you”.
History of the cable car
The website for the Stresa-Alpine-Mottarone service said it usually takes 20 minutes to transport passengers 1,491m above sea level.
Originally opened in 1970, the cable car closed for maintenance between 2014 and 2016.
Popular with both locals and tourists, each car can hold up to 40 passengers. Tourists use the cable car for the scenic views of the region, including the Borrommee Islands on Lake Maggiore, and neighbouring Lake Orta.
The service recently reopened following the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.