The site where a cable car snapped following a tree fall on Sunday. Pic/PTI
The site where a cable car snapped following a tree fall on Sunday. Pic/PTI

Gulmarg is still reeling from Sunday's terrible cable car tragedy that took the lives of four from a family from Delhi and three Kashmir locals. The Gulmarg Gondola — the service that operates the cable cars — was hit by a falling tree, which shattered the glass of the cable car, throwing out its occupants, who later plunged around 30 feet to their deaths.

Wait for a full probe
"Freak accident" is how Abhijeet Patil, chairman of Mumbai's Raja Rani Travels, describes the tragedy. He is quick to qualify that with, "like everybody else, I, too, feel the huge tragedy of this loss. Though this was such a freak accident, [it was] a one-in-a-million occurrence which is difficult to describe as anything else."

The chairman of the 58-year-old travel group, which took "tourists to Kashmir during the 1990s, at the height of militancy in the Valley", recalls, "My father, R Patil, met Cable Car Corporation chief Farooq Shah in 1998 (Shah is the administrative secretary in the tourism department today) regarding how the cable car service would be a great magnet for tourists."

"Let us wait for a full investigation into the incident, which will take a day more. The entire cable car route is lined with trees, it is one of the endearing facets of the Gulmarg gondola," said Abhijeet.

Shocking, unfortunate
Sudhir Patil, founder-director of Veena World and president of Maharashtra Tour Organisers Association, said the cable car accident "is a shocking and unfortunate tragedy". "My heart goes out to the loved ones of those who perished, but it would be a huge setback if Gulmarg is marked by this [accident]. The place is an absolute must on a tourist itinerary."

Sudhir said tourist traffic has fallen drastically this year, "with uncertainty bringing in a fear factor. The government must better its communication channels with tour operators in Kashmir, so that they are regularly updated about the situation in the Valley. We need more clarity towards that."