18 dead, more than 140 injured as Air India Express flight from Dubai skids off runway at Kozhikode
A view of the scene at Kozhikode airport where an Air India Express aircraft skidded off the runway, on August 7, 2020.

18 dead, more than 140 injured as Air India Express flight from Dubai skids off runway at Kozhikode

Aircraft overshoots table-top runway and falls about 35 feet down the hillside

Thiruvananthapuram, August 8, 2020

At least 18 persons died and more than 140 others suffered injuries when an Air India Express aircraft on a flight from Dubai, with 190 people on board, skidded off the table-top runway while landing at the Kozhikode International Airport in Kerala and split into two after plunging some 35 feet down the hillside on Friday evening, official sources said.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told television channels in Delhi that 18 persons had died, including the pilot D V Sathe and the co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar.

While confirming that the two pilots were among those killed in the mishap, Air India Express, a subsidiary of national carrier Air India, said the four cabin crew members are confirmed safe.

Puri said 127 of the injured passengers were still under treatment in hospitals in Kozhikode and Malappurm districts. Several of the injured persons were said to be in a serious condition, other sources said.

Local people, airport officials and fire service personnel were among the first to reach the scene of the crash and begin the rescue efforts.

The injured passengers were first taken to the airport arrival lounge and then rushed to hospitals. More than 25 ambulances were pressed into service.

There were 184 passengers on board, including ten infants, and six members of crew, sources said.

Puri said the flight was part of the Vande Bharat Mission launched by the Government to bring back stranded Indians from abroad. Regular international commercial flights have been suspended since March 25 when the Government imposed a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The mishap occurred at around 7.41 pm when the Boeing 737 aircraft, with call sign VT GHK and operating flight IX 1344 from Dubai to Kozhikode, came in to land at the Kozhikode airport, or Karipur airport as it is known locally, which is a "table-top" airport, on the top of a hill. There were rains at that time and visibility was said to be poor.

From various accounts, it appeared that the pilot could not bring the aircraft to a halt in time and it rolled some 35 feet down the side of the hill, causing the fuselage to split. However, there was no fire. The front portion of the aircraft was completely damaged.

The incident was reminiscent of the crash of an Air India Express aircraft at Mangalore airport a decade ago.

On May 22, 2010, in a very similar accident, an Air India Express flight from Dubai overshot the runway and crashed near the Mangalore airport, killing 158 of the 166 people on board while the remaining 8 miraculously survived.

That flight, IX 812, operated with a Boeing 737-800, had overshot the table-top runway while landing at Mangalore, located on a hill. It veered off the hilltop and crashed into the valley below.

Friday's incident happened on a day when Kerala was already reeling under heavy rains and floods in many parts even while battling the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was pained by the accident and that his thoughts were with those who had lost their loved ones. He also prayed that the injured recover at the earliest.

Modi also spoke to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan about the situation and added that authorities were at the spot, providing all assistance to the affected.

Vijayan expressed shock over the mishap and asked all government agencies to join the rescue operations using all available facilities.

Vijayan deputed A C Moideen, Minister for Local Bodies, to coordinate the rescue operations. The Minister has already left for Karipur from Thrissur.

The Chief Minister has also deputed an Inspector-General of Police to oversee the rescue operations. Fire and rescue teams from Kozhikode and Malappuram districts were pressed into service.

Health authorities have been instructed to provide all possible medical aid to save lives of victims.

The Ministry of External Affairs has set up the following helplines:

1800 118 797, +91 11 23012113, +91 11 23014104, +91 11 23017905

Fax: +91 11 23018158 and Email: covid19@mea.gov.in

Air India Express has also established helpline number in Sharjah at 00971 6 5970303.

The Consulate General of India in Dubai has set up the following helplines: 056 546 3903, 0543090572, 0543090572, 0543090575

Some other numbers include:

Air India Control Room (Kozhikode) - 0091 483 2710189.

Helpline (Kozhikode) - 0091 495 2376901.

Malappuram Collectorate : 0091 483 2736320.

Kozhikode Collectorate : 0091 495 2376901

"I live around 20 metres away from the compound wall of the airport and hearing the loud sound a few of us came rushing. We saw the cockpit of the aircraft jutting out of the compound wall," a local resident told reporters.

"We were a few people and we started to bang the airport gate, but the CISF personnel failed to open. We saw a fire engine and an ambulance arriving after which the CISF personnel asked for help and we rushed inside. We rescued the children first and assisted several others also," he added.

State Health Minister K.K. Shailaja said that the condition of a mother and child was reported to be serious.

Local legislator T. V. Ibrahim who was at a local hospital near the airport asked TV channels to beam the images of a young boy he was carrying in his arms as his parents were missing, so as to help the boy's relatives in locating him at the Kondotty Relief Hospital.

According to information from the spot, the passengers sitting in the front rows of the plane have been seriously injured.

The condition of 13 passengers who were brought to another private hospital is reported to be serious.

Puri said two investigations of professionals from Air India, Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the Air Accidents Investigation Bureau (AAIB) will leave for Kozhikode tomorrow to investigate the causes of the accident.

The airline said Emergency Response Team members as well as Special Assistance Tem members (Angels of Air India) have been pressed into service from Cochin, Mumbai and Delhi to render all possible assistance to the passengers as well as to their family members.

Special relief flights have been arranged from Mumbai and Delhi for rendering humanitarian assistance to all the passengers and the faily members.

Air India has established a passenger information centre, and a toll-free number has been made available for family or friends of those who were on board flight IX-1344. The toll-free number is 1800-2222-71.


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