An Air India Express flight from Dubai with 190 people on board skidded off a runway and split in two while landing on Friday in heavy rain in southern India. Police said at least 16 people were killed and 123 others injured.
Abdul Karim, a senior Kerala state police officer, said the dead included one of the pilots. He said at least 15 of the injured were in critical condition, and that rescue operations were over.
Rajiv Jain, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Ministry, said no fire was reported on the Boeing 737 aircraft after it landed and broke into two pieces.
The NDTV news channel said the plane flew from Dubai to Kozhikode, also called Calicut, in the state of Kerala in southern India.
#AirIndiaExpress plane from #Dubai skids on landing at #Kozhikode airport in #Kerala & splits into two. #Breaking@WFRising @NammaBengaluroo @Namma_ORRCA @WeAreBangalore @surnell @sandeeprrao1991 @BLR_Avgeek @BLRAviation pic.twitter.com/5kuFKPI9fw— Rakesh Prakash (@rakeshprakash1) August 7, 2020
It was a repatriation flight carrying Indian citizens back to the country, officials said. Regular commercial flights have been halted in India because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Jain said there were 174 adult passengers, 10 infants, two pilots and four cabin crew on board the aircraft.
Amitabh Kant, who heads the government's planning commission, said the runway is on a hilltop with deep gorges on either side, making it difficult to land.
“The incident happened because of heavy rains and poor visibility. This is truly devastating,” he told NDTV.
The two-year-old Boeing 737-800 flew from Dubai to Kozhikode, also called Calicut, in Kerala, India’s southernmost state, the airline said.
A similar tragedy to Friday’s was narrowly avoided at the same airport a year ago, when an Air India Express flight suffered a tail strike upon landing. None of the 180 passengers of that flight were injured.
Kozhikode’s 2,850-meter (9,350-foot) runway is on a flat hilltop with deep gorges on either side ending in a 34-meter (112-foot) drop.
An inquiry will be conducted by the ministry’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau, he said.
Two investigation teams of professionals from @airindiain @AAI_Official & AAIB will leave for Kozhikode at 02.00 hrs & 05.00 hrs.— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) August 7, 2020
Everyone has now been rescued from the aircraft.
Rescue operations are now complete.
Injured being treated at various city hospitals.
The airport’s runway end safety area was expanded in 2018 to accommodate wide-body aircraft.
The runway end safety area meets United Nations international civil aviation requirements, but the UN agency recommends a buffer that is 150 meters (492 feet) longer than what exists at Kozhikode airport, according to Harro Ranter, chief executive of the Aviation Safety Network online database.
"Unfortunately, 16 people have lost their lives. I offer my condolences to their next of kin and pray for speedy recovery of the injured," Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said in a tweet.
Overshot the runway, says Aviation Minister
Puri said in a statement that the flight “overshot the runway in rainyconditions and went down” the slope, breaking into two pieces upon impact.He said rescue operations had been completed and all passengers had been removed from the aircraft. Police said earlier four people were stuck in the wreckage.
As per the flight manifest there were 190 people on flight AXB-1344 including 174 adult passengers,10 infants, 4 cabin crew & 2 pilots.— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) August 7, 2020
Unfortunately, 16 people have lost their lives. I offer my heartfelt condolences to their next of kin & pray for speedy recovery of the injured.
The civil aviation ministry said in a statement there was no fire on board.
Expert: Too early to determine cause
Dubai-based aviation consultant Mark Martin said that while it was too early to determine the cause of the crash, annual monsoon conditions appeared to be a factor.
“Low visibility, wet runway, low cloud base, all leading to very poor braking action is what looks like led to where we are at the moment with this crash,” Martin said, calling for the European Aviation Safety Agency and the US Federal Aviation Administration to assist with the Indian government’s investigation.
The Air India Express flight was part of the Indian government’s special repatriation mission to bring Indian citizens back to the country, officials said. All of the passengers were returning from the Gulf region, authorities said. Regular commercial flights have been halted in India because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he was “pained by the plane accident in Kozhikode,” and that he had spoken to Kerala’s top elected official. “My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest,” he said.
Worst disaster in India in 1996
The worst air disaster in India was on November12, 1996, when a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight collided midair with a Kazakhastan Airlines Flight near Charki Dadri in Haryana state, killing all 349 on board the two planes.
Air India Express AXB1344, was a government-operated repatriation flight for Indians previously unable to return home because of the travel restrictions.
TV visuals showed the aircraft’s nose smashed into a brick wall, with much of the middle of the plane pulverized.
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 is a subsidiary of Air India.