Fuse leaves tourists high and dry


For the second time this year tourists have been left dangling in cable cars high above Cape Town’s Table Mountain.

On Tuesday, scores of frustrated tourists and locals left the mountain without going on the cable car as intended.

About 70 people got stuck in mid-air in the two cars for 35 minutes when a fuse blew.

On January 21, Eskom’s rolling blackouts left 37 people dangling in the dark and in strong winds in the cable cars, while 500 more, who had been attracted by the full moon, were stranded on top of the mountain.

When the power came back on after the expected two hours of load shedding, it was discovered the outage had disabled the cable cars and they could not dock. They were eventually evacuated in the early hours of the morning.

In the latest incident, an engineer fitted a new fuse and once the visitors were dropped off and a few test runs were made, the cars were reopened to the public.

But by that time a number of people, some of whom said they had waited for more than an hour, had left because they could not wait any longer for operations to start up again.

Enrik Basson was escorting 60 school children from Lambert’s Bay for a trip on the cable car.

“But we can’t wait any more. We have to leave. The children are very disappointed. They were looking forward to this,” he said.

Nerish Rempul of Durban, who was looking forward to his third cable car ride, said the situation was “terrible”.

“I’m here with two friends but we’re leaving now. We probably won’t get another chance to use the cable car because we’re going home (tomorrow). It’s truly terrible,” he said.

It was “third time unlucky” for Amit Nandha of Kenya who said he had twice earlier on Tuesday tried to use the cable car but, because of misty conditions, was turned away.

“I want to try again but I don’t know if I will. I heard it’s going to be very windy.”

Tobias Schmid, an exchange student from Stuttgart, Germany, had been in one of the cable cars when it had stopped moving but said because he and his friends had been stuck for 35 minutes, rather than an hour, it had not been “a really bad” experience.

“It was OK,” said Schmid. “If we had been stuck for longer we could’ve panicked. We weren’t worried. One of the students was scared, she was really scared. But we were OK and at least no one got hurt.”

Schmid said it was his first visit to the country and he hoped to use the cable car again.

The cars were reopened to the public after 3.30pm, by which time a long queue had formed.

Sabine Lehmann, chief executive officer of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company, said the cars ran in tandem and that was why both stopped when the fuse blew.

She said an engineer had fixed the problem and test runs were completed afterwards.

“We take safety very seriously. People need to understand you can’t fix a problem in a minute. You first need to identify the problem and then address it.”

Refunds were given for tickets that had not been used.