Twelve people have died and two children are in hospital with serious injuries after a cable car plunged to the ground near Lake Maggiore in northern Italy.
The capsule fell from its cable close to the second last pillar near the summit of the Mottarone mountain with 11 people on board at about midday (11am BST) on Sunday, Italy’s mountain rescue service said.
Two children, believed to be under 10 years old, were taken in two air ambulances to the Regina Margherita hospital in nearby Turin, the service added.
The youngest child, a boy reported to be aged five, suffered head trauma, thoracoabdominal trauma and lower limb fractures but is still conscious, Sky Italia reported. He is in a “serious condition”, according to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
Simone Bobbio, a spokesman for the Piedmont region’s alpine rescue service said there were no details on the nationality or ages of the victims yet.
Corriere della Sera said rescue efforts have been made more difficult by the fact that the cabin, which has a capacity of 40, fell into a wood in an inaccessible area.
A photo of the wreckage taken by Italy’s fire brigade showed the crushed remains of the red and white cable car in a clearing of a heavily wooded area near the peak of the ski resort.
The cables of the Stresa-Mottarone lift were particularly high off the ground at that point, said Walter Milan, spokesman for the Alpine rescue service.
He said the cable line was closed in 2014 for a €4.4 million renovation before opening again in 2016, and had only reopened on 24 April after COVID lockdowns forced the closure of ski lifts across Italy last year.
Fire crews, helicopters, police and mountain rescue teams are on site.
A fire engine driving to the site overturned but there were no injuries.
“A terrible tragedy, I have already spoken with the prefect and the director of the Fire Brigade and Civil Protection. We are trying to understand what has happened, but it is a truly terrible tragedy”, said the Minister of Sustainable Infrastructure and Mobility, Enrico Giovannini.
The cable car, which has two cars going in alternate directions, links Stresa on the shores of Lake Maggiore to the summit of Mottarone, at about 1,491 metres (4,900ft) altitude, and takes about 20 minutes with a stop in the middle.
In 2001, 40 tourists had to be rescued after a capsule got stuck just after leaving the terminal in Stresa.
There is a small amusement park at the summit, Alpyland, which has a children’s rollercoaster with 360 degree views of the picturesque lake and surrounding Alps in Italy’s Piedmont region.
Many Italian ski areas have mountain bike and hiking trails that are popular in spring and summer.