Eighteen people, including the two pilots, died and over a hundred passengers were injured after an Air India Express plane crashed at the Kozhikode International Airport (Karipur Airport), authorities said on Saturday.
The flight coming from Dubai broke into “two pieces” after landing at the airport in Kerala and overshooting the runway, aviation regulator DGCA said on Friday night.
Television footage showed rescue workers moving around the wreckage in pouring rain. The state has been battling heavy rains from Tuesday. The accident at the airport comes on the heels of a massive landslide in Idukki district on Thursday night in which 17 people died.
Malappuram district collector said rescue operations were complete late Friday night after all passengers from the Air India flight were moved out of the plane. The Kerala DGP Loknath Behera initially said four passengers had been stuck in the wreckage.
The aviation ministry said there were 174 passengers, 10 Infants, 2 Pilots and 5 cabin crew on board aircraft. Pilot DV Sathe and co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar died in the accident.
News channels reported that locals in the area rushed to the airport to begin relief efforts before the police and the NDRF arrived.
Most of the passengers were rushed to Kozhikode Medical College. The Malappuram district collector said a total of 13 hospitals in Kozhikode and Malappuram were treating the injured passengers, including Mercy Hospital in Kondotty, Aster MIMS hospital, Baby Memorial hospital, Kondotty Relief Hospital and Feroke Crescent hospital.
Seven passengers rushed to the Kozhikode Medical College succumbed to injuries. Two others died at Kondotty Relief Hospital, three at Mercy Hospital while one death each was reported from the Feroke Crescent hospital and Aster MIMS, it said.
Amitabh Kant, who heads the government’s planning commission NITI Aayog, told NDTV, “The incident happened because of heavy rains and poor visibility. This is truly devastating.”
Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said a formal enquiry would be conducted by the ministry’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau.
Kozhikode district helpline number: 0495 - 2376901, 0495- 2376900, 0495- 2376901, 0495- 2376902
Malappuram district helpline number: 0483 2736320
Karipur airport’s helpline number: 0483-2719493
Air India Express’s helpline number in Sharjah: 00971 6 5970303.
Helplines of the Indian Consulate in Dubai: 056 546 3903, 0543090572, 0543090572, 0543090575
Flights scheduled to land at the Karipur airport have now been diverted to Kannur airport.
The flight was part of the Vande Bharat programme that has been bringing back Indians from abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic, NDTV reported.
TV visuals showed the aircraft’s nose smashed into a brick wall, with much of the middle of the plane pulverised.
Malayalam TV news channels showed passengers, some of them lying motionless on stretchers, brought into a hospital surrounded by health workers wearing masks.
Directorate General of Civil Aviation told ANI that the aircraft was at full speed while landing at the Karipur Airport and overshot the runway. The airport is a tabletop runway model, which means it is located on top of a plateau or a small hill with one or both ends leading to a steep precipice, Manorama reported.
The flight landed at the airport at around 7.40 pm.
The regulator said the flight ― IX 1344 ― continued running to the end of Runway 10 at the airport amid heavy rain and “fell down in the valley and broke down in two pieces”. Air India Express has only Boeing 737 planes in its fleet.
Flightradar24, which tracks flights in real-time, showed that the aircraft tried to land twice at the airport and had looped around the airport before attempting to land, Indian Express reported.
The airline statement released a statement on the accident, which said there was no fire reported at the time of landing.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted saying, “Pained by the plane accident in Kozhikode. My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest. Spoke to Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan Ji regarding the situation. Authorities are at the spot, providing all assistance to the affected.”
The crash is the worst passenger aircraft accident in India since 2010, when an Air India Express flight, also from Dubai, overshot the runway and slid down a hill while landing in Mangalore, killing 158 people, Reuters reported.
(With inputs from PTI and Reuters)