NEW DELHI: At least 16 people were killed on Friday (Aug 7) when a passenger jet overshot and skidded off the runway as it landed in southern India, breaking into two pieces, officials said.
Dozens of people were injured, 15 of them seriously, after the Air India Express Boeing 737 originating from Dubai touched down Calicut airport near Kozhikode in heavy rain.
The airline said more than 190 passengers and crew were on board the plane that, according to the aviation ministry, plunged 10 metres down a slope off the end of the raised so-called table-top runway.
Television footage showed the fuselage of the jet ripped apart and surrounded by emergency personnel working in the dark, spraying the wreckage with water although there was no sign of any fire.
Sakeen K, the district medical officer in the nearby city of Malappuram, said that 16 people had died.
“We are still ascertaining the toll,” she told AFP.
Kozhikode official Seeram Sambasiva said that the two pilots were among the dead.
Senior local policeman Abdul Karim told AFP said that another 15 passengers “have critical injuries. It is still a developing situation.”
“We have at least 89 people, many of them with serious injuries, admitted at different Kozhikode hospitals. The ambulances are still coming in,” said Sujith Das, another senior police official.
“We have been told that all those who have survived the crash also have some form of injuries.”
Aviation regulator DGCA said the plane skidded off the end of the runway and “fell down in the valley and broke down in two pieces”.
Four people were still stuck inside the plane. media reports said.
One television channel reported there had been a problem with the jet’s landing gear.
Air India Express said in a statement that there was “no fire reported at the time of landing.”
It said there were 174 passengers, 10 infants, two pilots and five cabin crew on board the aircraft.
Local TV news channels showed passengers, some of them lying motionless on stretchers, brought into a hospital surrounded by health workers wearing masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Air India Express AXB1344 was a government-operated repatriation flight for Indians previously unable to return home because of the travel restrictions.
India, which shut down all air travel in late March to try to contain the novel coronavirus, has restarted limited international air travel.
Calicut is in the southern state of Kerala, home to a large number of Indians working in the Middle East.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences.
“My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest … Authorities are at the spot, providing all assistance to the affected,” Modi said.
The last major plane crash in India was in 2010 when an Air India Express Boeing 737-800 from Dubai to Mangalore overshot the runway and burst into flames.
The crash killed 158 people and left eight survivors.
Both Mangalore and Calicut have table-top runways that are located at an altitude and have steep drops at one or both ends of the runway.
Kerala has been battered by heavy rains in recent days.
At least 15 people were killed on Friday after a landslide triggered by heavy rains flattened a row of huts elsewhere in the state.
Around 50 other people were feared trapped in the debris. The dead included two children.