11 trapped in Sydney Tower lift for three hours

July 3rd, 2008 - 3:37 pm ICT by IANS  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, July 3 (IANS) For some overseas tourists, going up the iconic Sydney Tower for a glimpse of the harbour city’s breathtaking views actually took their breath away as they found themselves trapped in a lift about 200 metres above the street level for three long hours. In what could have been a scene from Bollywood, 11 people were trapped in a lift in Sydney’s tallest building Wednesday night as gales battered the city and contributed to the mechanical breakdown of the double-decker lift.

“From what I can gather, the place is being retro-fitted with new lifts. I think a gust of wind at the wrong time, as the lift was making its journey to the roof, probably caused it to stop. The lift and the tower have safety systems. If the wind speed rises to 80 kmph, the lifts stop,” Senior Constable Steve Adams of the Rescue and Bomb Squad told reporters.

The rescue squad used a recently built second lift without doors to manually evacuate the trapped occupants, mainly overseas tourists heading for dinner at the Sydney Tower Restaurant.

“It was risky because the lift car that got stuck had suffered major damage. I was concerned that all the safety mechanisms on that car that would stop it falling further were going to cause me some problems,” Adams said.

When Adams undid the hatch on the ceiling of the stuck lift, he found terrified people engulfed in darkness. “There was a flashing of lights from camera phones as he opened the door…they were in a bit of shock.”

The occupants in the stuck lift had forced open the doors to get some air on what was a very cold winter night. “There were a couple I was concerned about because of hypothermia and low blood pressure,” Adams said.

Harnesses were attached to the occupants in the lift, stuck midway between the restaurant and the ground floor at about 200 metres above street level, before they were ferried to the other lift and taken to the ground level.

The building staff apparently did not know about the stuck lift until a trapped occupant sent a text message. Fortunately, none of the occupants aged between 20 and 50 was injured.

The 305-metre golden-tipped Sydney Tower, a prominent landmark of the city, is served by three high-speed lifts that take only about 40 seconds to travel from ground level to the top. It was completed in 1981 and offers unsurpassed, bird’s-eye view of the city to hundreds of tourists daily.

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