Some 45 people are stuck overnight in a cable car that became stranded in the French Alps, 3,800m above sea level near Mont Blanc.

It followed a dramatic rescue operation when 110 people, mostly Italian, French and US citizens — were on their way to Helbronner in Italy when cables reportedly became tangled in high winds. Some of those stranded have already been rescued.

The operation to rescue the rest, who have been given food, water and blankets, was suspended as night fell and will resume on Friday morning (9 September).

The Mayor of Chamonix, Eric Fournier, said a number of emergency services helicopters are involved in the tricky operation but that "there's nothing fundamentally to fear." Italy and Switzerland are also involved in the operation.

Those rescued are being taken to Italy then bussed back to France. Reuters quoted a French police spokesman as saying: "We will evacuate passengers by air, with police helicopters but also private ones called in by local authorities."

One of those taken to safety by the Mountain Rescue Service told the Express that he and his family had been trapped for hours. "It was me, my daughter and my son," Frédéric Maurer, 49,said. "We were two and half hours in the cab locked under the sun.

"We had just started from flagship station Helbronner on the Italian side, when it froze everything. In front of us there was another 'egg' with a group of 'chasseurs alpins' [the French Army elite mountain infantry] but they too have had to wait the arrival of rescuers from the air."

The 5km (3 mile) route is called the Vallee Blanche cable car and transports passengers between Aiguille du Midi in France and Hellbronner in Italy. At one point it reaches a height of 3,700 metres (12,300 feet) above sea level. Half a million people use the cable car every year.

In 1998 20 people died in a cable car in Mount Cermis, Italy when a Nato military jet severed the line. US pilot Captain Richard Ashby faced a court martial but involuntary manslaughter charges were later dropped. He was jailed for six months for hiding a video shot during the tragedy.