The two helicopters operating since first light. Photo: Guardia Civil.
Updated 25 March: The Teleférico has announced that the cable car has reopened to the public today, ten days after one of Tenerife’s most dramatic incidents in recent years, with all security checks now completed and confirmed as safe.
Updated 22 March: The cause of the breakdown has now been determined to be a fault in the braking system which stopped the cable cars instead of slowing them for a routine controlled check which would normally take just a few seconds. The Teleférico says that the configuration of the braking system is done so as to comply with all required regulations, and is monitored continuously in addition to regular maintenance checks. All the conclusions and technical results will now be sent to the relevant authorities for their review, and the Teleférico should reopen in the next few days once the necessary adjustments have been made and the system is certified as functioning properly.
Updated 17 March: A Swiss technician from the manufacturers of the Teleférico, Fatzer, will join the evaluation team today to investigate the cause of the breakdown, the Teleférico has announced. The cable car will be out of action until next week at the earliest.
Updated 16 March: The operation to rescue those who spent the night in the upper station and the Refugio started at first light with a GES search and rescue helicopter and another from the Guardia Civil, and was declared completed around 11am. Others who were more confident about descending on foot in full daylight walked down via Montaña Blanca accompanied by the army unit present and bomberos. In the end, around 100 people spent the night on the mountain after the cable car broke down around 2pm yesterday afternoon. All are in good shape.
The services involved in the whole operation were the Teleférico itself, the Canarian Government’s Grupo de Emergencias y Salvamento (GES search and rescue), Guardia Civil, 112 emergency coordination centre (CECOES) and ambulances and paramedics, Consorcio de Bomberos, National Park units, La Orotava Policía Local, Policía Canaria, Ayuda en Emergencias Anaga (AEA), La Orotava Protección Civil, Cruz Roja, the Unidad Militar de Emergencias (UME), the Colegio de Psicología, and the Tenerife Cabildo’s insular operative coordination centre (CECOPIN). The protocol under which they were all operating, coordinated by Cecopin, 112, and the Teleférico, has been in place for decades, and was last used twenty years ago. It shows how these protocols, with their plans and periodic training operations, work, and how they can sweep into action at any moment when needed.
The reason for the dramatic incident remains unclear. There are some reports from services on site that the warning system which stopped the Teleférico was triggered by a guide cable breaking, but Tenerife President Carlos Alonso, with expert advice to hand, himself speculated that the inability to get the brake clamp released externally might suggest that something happened within one of the cable cars to cause the stoppage.
The timing might end up being quite propitious given that Aemet forecasts the weather front arriving later today might bring snow above 2,200m. If the breakdown had happened 24 hours later, the night on the mountain might have been rather more dramatic than it actually was with temperatures of around zero degrees. In the event, everyone is safe and well, and all have a story and a half to take home from their “Teide experience”!
Updated 11.45pm: Services present overnight at Teleférico base station. Photo: La Orotava Ayuntamiento.
Updated 11.30pm: The Tenerife Cabildo has announced that the TF21 road between Portillo Alto and the Parador will be closed from 7.30am Thursday morning to facilitate rescue works at the Teleférico.
Updated 10.30pm: Tenerife Bomberos have just released this video of the last of those who descended to the base station tonight, accompanied by rescue teams. Some 70 in all will stay in the upper station and the Refugio overnight, with a major security and emergency presence to deliver supplies up to them on foot and to ensure their security.
— Bomberos de Tenerife (@BomberosTf) 15 March 2017
Updated 8pm: Most of the two hundred or so who were stuck at the upper Teleférico station have started to walk down under their own steam, The others, some not physically able to undertake the descent, will stay in the upper station and the Refugio overnight, Teleférico sources have confirmed, with all their needs and requirements taken care of.
Updated 7pm: Emergency services say that the occupants of both cable cars have now been rescued and are being attended by a range of services. They were lowered in harness by cable from the cabin to ground units waiting to receive them and escort them down to the Teleférico base station.
Updated 5.30pm: The photo opposite, from 112 Canarias, shows one of the two stricken cable cars. The Teleférico says that it was the system warning of a broken guide cable that stopped the cabins, that no one has been injured in the incident, and that all involved in the rescue are focused on getting those affected safely back to base station.
Original post 15 March: Emergency services say that a rescue is underway this afternoon after the Teleférico suffered a fault. No doubt there will be further information and, hopefully, images, but at the moment there are people inside the cable car itself as well as others stuck at the top station. Involved in the operation to rescue the more than seventy in the cable cars and another two hundred at the top station are GES helicopters, AEA mountain rescue services, Tenerife Bomberos, ambulances, the Guardia Civil, Red Cross, and Tenerife Cabildo and National Park teams.