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A cable car linking Italy’s Lake Maggiore with a nearby mountain in the Alps plunged to the ground.

A mountaintop cable car plunged to the ground in northern Italy, killing at least 13 people and sending two children to the hospital, authorities said.

The Stresa-Mottarone cable car takes tourists and locals from the famous town of Stresa, on Lake Maggiore, up almost 1,400 metres (4,600 feet) above sea level to the top of the Mottarone mountain in 20 minutes.

“We are devastated, in pain,” Marcella Severino, Stresa’s mayor told national broadcaster RAI, while Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi voiced his condolences to the families of the victims, “with a special thought” for the injured children.

The ministry of infrastructure said in a statement that the accident occurred around 12:30pm (10:30 GMT) on Sunday as the cabin was about 100 metres (328 feet) from the summit.

Rescue crews were continuing to search the area given possible indications that a 15th person might have been in the cable car, said Walter Milan, spokesman for Italy’s Alpine rescue service

Milan earlier told RaiNews24 television that two children had been transported by helicopter to a paediatric hospital in the nearby northern city of Turin.

Milan said that the cable car had fallen from a very high point and was now “crumpled” in the woods below.

The cable car cabin plunged close to the second last pillar as it was moving up the mountain [AFP]

Images from the fire service show debris from the cabin in a wooded area where a steep slope makes access difficult.

The accident may have been caused by a broken cable at the top of the system, Italian news wire ANSA said.

The Mottarone peak is popular among tourists because of its panoramic views on Lake Maggiore and its picturesque islands as well as the vista of the surrounding Alps.

The cable car service first opened in August 1970 after almost three years of work to replace a cog railway, its website said.

The dual cable system is split into two sections, just more than 2km (1.2 miles) between Stresa and Alpino and another 3km (1.9 miles) between Alpino and Mottarone.

According to authorities, the cable line had been renovated in 2016 and had only recently reopened after coronavirus lockdowns forced the closures of ski lifts across Italy.

Police and rescue service members are seen near the crashed cable car after it collapsed in Stresa, near Lake Maggiore [Reuters]
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