Fierce rain and winds lashed a India Boeing 737 plane carrying 190 people before it crash-landed and tore in two at an airport in southern India, killing at least 18 people and injuring scores more.
The Air India Express Boeing 737, on a special flight from Dubai to bring back Indians stranded overseas by the Corona-virus pandemic, overshot the runway at Kozhikode in Kerala state, plunged down an embankment and broke up, according to first accounts.
Fuel had leaked out so it was a miracle that the plane did not catch fire, the toll could have been much higher,” one senior emergency official at the scene said.
Passenger Renjith Panangad, 34, recalled the plane touching the ground and then everything went “blank. After the crash, the emergency door opened and I dragged myself out somehow, he told AFP from a hospital bed in Kozhikode.
The front part of the plane was gone — it was completely gone. I don’t know how I made it but I’m grateful. I am still shaken.
The fatalities included the two pilots as well as infants aged 10 months and 18 months, according to a hospital list seen by AFP. At least 15 people suffered critical injuries.
Kozhikode is considered a tricky airport as it has a table-top runway with a steep drop at one end. Kerala has been hit by severe floods in recent days and heavy rains had been falling for several hours at Kozhikode as the jet landed.
Indian media quoted air traffic control officials and a flight tracker website as showing that the Boeing 737 twice circled and started to land before it crashed @ the third attempt.
The jet repeatedly jumped up and down in buffeting winds before the landing, survivors told Indian television. Local taxi drivers and traders joined airport rescue staff to help free people from the wreckage in the dark and wet..
Several people on board had to be cut out with special equipment. It took three hours to clear all the injured and bodies, officials said. Taxis ferried many of the injured to hospitals.
The flight was one of hundreds in recent months to bring home tens of thousands of Indians stranded abroad by the Corona-virus pandemic, many of them in Gulf countries.
According to flight documents seen by AFP, 15 of those on board had lost their jobs and 12 were returning for a medical emergency. Two were coming back to be married. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences. “My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones.
Kerala regularly suffers from monsoon floods. At least 15 people were killed on Friday after a landslide triggered by heavy rains flattened a row of huts elsewhere in the state.
“It has been raining for the last two days… This is the third calamity in the region (this year). First floods, then a landslide and now this,” said senior local police officer Abdul Karim.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was saddened by the “loss of innocent lives”. In June, a Pakistan International Airlines flight ploughed into a crowded Karachi neighborhood, killing 97 people aboard and a child on the ground.
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 — again a table-top landing surface — and burst into flames.
The crash killed 158 people and only left eight survivors.
PressTV / ABC Flash Point News 2020.