Air India plane skids off runway and breaks in half; 17 dead and 15 seriously injured
At least 17 people were killed and another 15 seriously injured on Friday when a commercial airliner belonging to the Air India Express company ran off the runway when landing at an airport in southern India and broke in two amid heavy rain.
According to the airline, the Boeing 737 was carrying 191 people, including passengers and crew members, and covered the route between Dubai and the city of Kozhikode, in the Indian state of Kerala.
The plane went off the runway and hurtled down a 10-meter high slope, according to the Ministry of Aviation.
Television images showed part of the wrecked fuselage, while rescue teams worked in the dark and sprayed the wreckage with water. There were no signs of fire, but operations are difficult due to the rains.
Sakeen K., a district medical officer in the nearby town of Malappuram, said at least 17 people had died.
Seeram Sambasiva, a Kozhikode official, said the two pilots were among the dead.
Another 15 passengers are seriously injured. The situation is still developing, Abdul Karim, a senior local police official, told AFP.
We fear that the toll of victims will worsen. The rescue operation is over. Now we are collecting and sorting people's belongings and valuables around the track, he added.
According to the aeronautical regulatory agency DGCA, the plane skidded at the end of the runway, fell into the valley and broke in two.
A spokesperson for Air India Express also stated that the plane appeared to have rolled beyond the runway.
A television channel reported that there had been a problem with the landing gear of the aircraft. Dozens of ambulances rushed to the scene of the accident.
The airline said in a statement that "no fire had been reported upon landing" of the plane, which was carrying 184 passengers, including 10 young children, two pilots and five cabin crew members.
The crashed Boeing was one of the dozens of aircraft that, in recent weeks, repatriated thousands of Indians blocked by the pandemic abroad, especially in the Gulf countries.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences on Twitter.
My thoughts are with those who have lost their loved ones. May the injured recover quickly. The authorities are there to give all possible help to the victims, he wrote.
The last serious plane crash in India occurred in 2010, when an Air India Express Boeing 737-800, flying from Dubai to Mangalore, ran off the runway and exploded, causing 158 deaths. Eight people survived.
Torrential rains have been falling on Kerala for days. At least 15 people, including two children, were killed in a landslide caused by the downpours on Friday.
Rescuers fear that some 50 people are still trapped in the rubble of several houses washed away by the landslides.