Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 30 September 2020

Air India Express Dubai-Kerala flight makes deadly crash landing

Pilot and co-pilot among 18 confirmed dead, with 127 injured, after passenger jet skids off runway in Kozhikode

It has been confirmed that at least 18 people where killed when an Air India Express flight from Dubai skidded off the runway as it landed at Kozhikode in Kerala on Friday night.

The Indian Consulate General in Dubai tweeted on Saturday morning that a further 127 people were receiving treatment for their injuries.

“Eighteen people have lost their lives, including the pilot and co-pilot, and 127 people are receiving treatment, a few of them in critical condition,” the Consulate General tweeted. “Our prayers are with the families of the deceased and injured.”

Injured passengers were taken to five hospitals across the city: Kozhikode Medical College, Baby Memorial Hospital, Mims Hospital, Maithra Hospital, and Beach Hospital.

The consulate tweeted on Friday night that it would be open from 8am on Saturday to assist those looking for information about the crash.

"We are with the families of the injured and the deceased and will do our best to assist them,” it said.

Air India Express said Flight IX-1344 from Dubai was carrying 184 passengers – including 10 infants – and six crew members, including two pilots.

India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation said the plane landed in heavy rain at Runway 10, overshot the landing strip and fell into a gorge.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri ordered an investigation into the incident.

Eyewitness describes pulling children from wreckage

One eyewitness told the news website Greatandhra how he and others had rushed to help with rescue efforts at the site.

The unnamed man, who lives 20 metres from the airport's perimeter wall, said: "We saw the cockpit of the aircraft jutting out of the compound wall. We were a few people and we started to bang the airport gate."

Security forces invited the group to help.

"We saw a fire engine and an ambulance arriving ... and we rushed inside. We rescued the children first and assisted several others also."

A view of the wreckage of the of the Air India Express Boeing 737 after it crashed in Kozhikode. EPA
A view of the wreckage of the of the Air India Express Boeing 737 after it crashed in Kozhikode. EPA

Dr Azad Moopen, managing director of Aster hospitals, based in the UAE and India, said three passengers died at the Mims Hospital in Calicut.

“Our doctors, nurses and critical care staff are on standby and will do all possible to save lives and treat the patients,” Dr Moopen told The National.

“People were brought in a serious condition. The number of deaths is increasing because of the impact when the plane cracked in the middle.

“Luckily, there was no fire or explosion. Calicut airport is on a table top and due to the heavy rain the plane went off the runway and into a 40-foot gorge.”

India opens helplines for relatives in the UAE

Dr Aman Puri, India’s consul general in Dubai, said pilot Deepak Sathe was killed at the airport, also known as Calicut.

“Our deepest condolences go to the family members of those who have lost their lives and to others injured. We are praying the injured recover soon,” said Dr Puri.

“We stand with them in this time of grief and have activated four helplines on a 24/7 basis. This is a tragic incident. From what we hear the tragedy happened because of the weather and the plane overshot the runway. The details will come in due course.”

The Dubai-to-Kerala air route is one of the busiest operated from the UAE.

It is estimated that about one third of the UAE's more than three million Indian residents hail from Kerala, and there are longstanding economic ties between the prosperous southern state and Gulf nations.

Friday night's Air India Express service was part of hundreds of repatriation flights running each month between the UAE and India.

Dozens of flights took to the skies from July 12 during a two-week window of repatriation flights from the UAE, as part of India's Vandhe Bharat mission to return expats home.

That has since been extended several times, with about 90 flights due to fly between UAE and India between August 1 and 15, and another 100 or so between August 15 and 31.

To date, about 275,000 Indian expats have returned home, India's consulate in Dubai said last week.

This was the third Air India Express flight from the UAE to south India to crash on landing in the past decade.

The previous incident was on June 30 last year, when a Boeing 737 overshot the runway in wet conditions at the Mangalore airport in Karnataka state. None of the crew or passengers were seriously injured.

However, a similar incident at Mangalore airport on May 22, 2010, claimed the lives of 158 people out of 174 on board. The plane overshot the runway, also in wet conditions, and plunged into a forested valley before bursting into flames.

The airports in Mangalore and Kozikhode both have tabletop runways – located on a plateau adjacent to a valley or gorge.

Updated: August 8, 2020 02:06 PM

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