NAGANO – More than 1,000 tourists stranded on a mountain in Nagano Prefecture after lightning hit a cable car system were brought down safely by early Monday morning on cable cars run by a standby motor.
The last group out of the 1,050 tourists was brought down from the 2,956-meter Mount Komagatake at around 3:45 a.m., nearly 14 hours after the cable car system was paralyzed, according to the operator, Chuo Alps Co.
It took hours to transport the tourists down as the two cars on the cable car system, each with a capacity of 61 people, took 40 minutes to go down the mountain on the standby motor. The regular run takes 7 1/2 minutes.
Tourists waited at a hotel near the cable car’s Senjojiki Station near the mountain’s peak for their turn to descend the slope. They were given rice balls and tea during the wait.
A 67-year-old man from Tokyo said after coming down the mountain that while he was not hungry, it had been cold even though he had been indoors.
A 30-year-old woman from Nagoya said: “I’m dead tired after waiting seven hours. I just want to get home as soon as I can.”
Because the cable car facility was not damaged by the lightning, the operator suspects it hit a lightning rod, causing converter-related trouble.
The cable car system had suspended runs due to adverse weather conditions just before the accident occurred, and both cars had been parked at the two stations so that no passengers were stuck in midair when the power outage took place.
Chuo Alps officials said operations would be suspended throughout Monday to investigate the specific cause of the accident, and added that it was too early to determine when the runs would resume.
A thunderstorm warning had been in effect for the entire prefecture at the time of the incident.
The cable car service, launched in 1967, runs on a 2,300-meter line between Senjojiki Station, located near the mountain top at an elevation of 2,611 meters and Shirabidaira Station 950 meters below.
Trapped in midair
TOYAMA (Kyodo) Lightning shut down a cable car system along a popular scenic route in Tateyama, Toyama Prefecture, on Sunday, causing some 50 passengers to be temporarily stranded in midair, the operator said.
Officials at Tateyama Kurobe Kanko, based in the city of Toyama, said Monday lightning damaged the Tateyama Ropeway’s control mechanism a little after 11 a.m. the previous day. One of the cable cars, with 51 passengers and one operator on board, had just departed Kurobedaira Station, and came to a halt about 150 meters down the cable, suspended about 50 meters from the ground. Meanwhile, the other car had similarly departed Daikanbo Station on the other end with one operator aboard.
A backup motor was engaged about 18 minutes later, and the cars returned to the stations from which they had left, the officials said.