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Rescue of a would-be passenger during this year's practical exercise. SUR
Emergency rescue teams swing into action on Benalmádena's famous cable car tourist attraction
Emergency services

Emergency rescue teams swing into action on Benalmádena's famous cable car tourist attraction

Every year local firefighters stage an exercise on Mount Calamorro to familiarise themselves with the structure, although in 23 years of operation there has never been a major breakdown

Lorena Cádiz

Benalmádena

Tuesday, 26 September 2023, 18:22

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In the year 2000 Benalmádena's famous cable car opened. A tourist attraction that forever changed the landscape of the town and added the cabins to the skyline that go up and down connecting the centre of the town with the Calamorro mountain. Although the operating company does not provide data on the annual number of users, it is known that only in summer the cable car starts operating at 10am and does not finish until eleven o'clock at night, with a constant stream of people.

In these 23 years of operation, there has never been a major breakdown. The head of operation and maintenance of the cable car system, Carlos Muñiz-Alique, assured that "the failure rate of a cable car is even lower than that of an aeroplane, and it has always been said that travelling by plane is the safest thing there is". He said that in Benalmádena "we have very exhaustive maintenance programme, very rigorous controls, which are carried out every day, and also - once a year - we stop for approximately one month to check everything in depth and carry out all the necessary tests".

But what would happen if the cable car broke down, what would happen if the passengers were left hanging in the cabins? The company that operates the cable car has its own means to react to a possible breakdown, but if after a certain period of time it failed to do so, it would be the turn of the Benalmádena fire brigade, and they would not be caught unawares. They have been rehearsing for 23 years the evacuation plan they would have to put in place in case something like this happened.

David Bañasco, head of the Benalmádena Fire Brigade, explained that they regularly hold specific theoretical training sessions, and "once a year we dedicate a week to evacuation manoeuvres and cabin access", then one day a year they hold a simulation or practical exercise in which they move all their personnel and all their resources to the cable car and with the help of actors, they carry out a real rescue, always considering the "most unfavourable conditions possible".

This year's practical exercise took place a few days ago, in which once again this year they were able to familiarise themselves with the towers, the anchor points and measure the reaction times achieved. "They are simple rescues, which require basic rescue manoeuvres very similar to those that can be carried out in other places, such as a crane tower or a high-voltage electricity tower. The important thing is to know the installations, because here the difference is that you have to slide down the cable until you reach the cabin", said Bañasco.

Fireman on top of one of the cable car cabins.
Fireman on top of one of the cable car cabins. SUR

Every year, the Benalmádena Fire Brigade invites firefighters from other nearby towns or even Spain's Military Emergency Unit (UME) to take part in this practical exercise. "It is important that there are more teams who know the system because if the most unfavourable conditions were to occur, on a day in the middle of summer, at rush hour, we could be talking about the rescue of more than 200 people, and this would require several teams, so that the response would need be as fast as possible".

Even so, the fire chief confirmed that "we are dealing with very safe installations" and that although they did have to respond once during the assembly of the cable car, back in the early days, they have never had to carry out a real rescue operation.

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