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AT LEAST 20 PERISH AS CABLE CAR BREAKS LOOSE IN SOVIET GEORGIA

A cable car broke loose Friday from an aerial tramway at a popular tourist site in Soviet Georgia, and passengers were hurled onto the roof of an apartment building. At least 20 people were reported killed.

The Soviet news agency Tass and Soviet TV said another cable car was involved in the accident, but details were unclear.The gondolas had been climbing along the tramway from downtown to Mount Mtatsminda, a local tourist attraction, Tass said.

Tass gave no specific death toll but witnesses and Iveria, an unofficial Georgian information agency, said at least 20 people were killed and 15 injured.

Soviet TV showed footage of the accident's aftermath, including the blood-splattered interior of one of the red-and-white gondolas. The other gondola dangled from a cable above the apartment building but appeared to have been ripped apart.

"One of the cars seemed to explode," said Graig Line, an American photographer visiting Tbilisi who witnessed the accident. "The car just disintegrated."

Iveria said, "The leading steel cable burst and and one of the two cars started to slide down, accelerating quickly on the other cable. Halfway down, the car collided with a pole and split in two at full speed."

Iveria did not say what happened to the second cable car.

Sergei Dandurov, a resident who witnessed the accident, said in a telephone interview that the floor of the first cable car appeared to have split open and passengers inside fell to the rooftop below.

Tass said a government commission was formed to investigate the cause of the accident.