Unsafe cable cars leave passengers hanging

TN News

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It has taken several cable car mishaps with the potential of becoming major disasters for officials to recognize the safety problems that these systems pose.

An accident in Hanoi last week that left hundreds of passengers stranded in midair for nearly an hour has prompted official acknowledgement that there are many loopholes in the management of cable car systems.

“Cable car systems have been installed in Vietnam over the past 7-8 years but the mastery of technical issues to ensure safety is still limited,” said Pham Gia Luong, deputy head of the Labor Safety Department under the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs.

“Concerned agencies do not have the ability to assess and manage the field,” he said.

He said local cable car systems were imported from different countries and there were no common technical requirements for such systems operating in Vietnam.

Several companies have operated these systems in all windy conditions, ignoring a regulation that bans their operation in winds of between 29-49 kilometers per hour.

Luong said controls on operating cable car systems will be tightened when a circular is issued soon on managing amusement parks.

“We can only inspect safety criteria of those systems then,” he said.

Tran Thuc, former head of the Department for State Assessment of Construction Quality, also stressed the urgent need for safety management of cable car systems.

These systems involve the health and lives of many people and there should be strict management from the design to construction stages, he said.

Recent cases

In the recent incident, the explosion of an electrical transformer stopped a cable car system on February 19 while it was in operation at the Huong Pagoda complex, 60 kilometers southwest of central Hanoi.

The explosion, which took place at the adjacent Ung Hoa District’s Van Dinh Town, blacked out the whole pagoda in My Duc District. Operations resumed to normal 45 minutes later, but were suspended once all passengers had vacated the cars.

The incident destroyed six of the cable car system’s 12 operating chips, according to Do Trong Khiem, general director of Perfume Pagoda’s Cable Car System Joint-stock Company.

Huong Pagoda’s one-kilometer-plus cable car system was put into operation in 2006 with 45 cabins and three stations at Thien Tru Pagoda, Giai Oan Pagoda and Huong Tich Cave.

It can transport around 1,000 passengers per hour, however it has become known for overloading during the Tet Lunar New Year holiday as tens of thousands of pilgrims flock to attend the country’s largest and longest annual festival held at the pagoda.

In 2008, the Yen Tu cable car system in Quang Ninh Province was halted for three hours due to a failure in its lighting system.

In another case, a 23-year-old woman was injured in 2006 after she attempted to commit suicide by jumping off from a cable car in operation at the Ba Den Mountain in Tay Ninh Province, some 100 kilometers northwest of Ho Chi Minh City.

Another accident happened with the same system when a child fell off and was injured after a cabin window accidentally opened while the system was operating.

Reported by Viet Chien â€" Quang Duan

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