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CALICUT

At least 16 dead and dozens injured after plane skids off runway in India

The plane crash landed at Calicut International Airport in the South Indian State of Kerala.

LAST UPDATE | 7 Aug 2020

2.54905332 PA Images PA Images

AN AIR INDIA Express flight with 190 people on board has skidded off a runway and split in two while landing in heavy rain in southern India.

Police said at least 16 people were killed and 123 others injured.

Abdul Karim, a police officer, said the dead included one of the pilots. He said at least 15 of the injured were in critical condition.

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.

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 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 metres longer than what exists at Kozhikode airport, according to Harro Ranter, chief executive of the Aviation Safety Network online database.

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,” Mr 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. 

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.

Air India Express is a subsidiary of Air India.

The worst air disaster in India was on Nov. 12, 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.

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