Plane carrying Indian repatriates crashes in Kerala; pilot among 17 dead

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An Air India Express plane with 190 people on board has crashed and split in half while landing in heavy rain in the southern state of Kerala, killing at least 17 passengers and injuring 123 others.

The flight from Dubai carrying repatriates who had been stranded abroad because of coronavirus lockdowns, crash landed at Kozhikode, also known as Calicut, on Friday.

Television footage showed rescue workers moving around the wreckage in pouring rain. The aircraft lay split in two but there was no sign of a fire.

Abdul Karim, a senior Kerala state police officer, said the dead included one of the pilots. He also said at least 15 of the injured were in critical condition, and that rescue operations were over.

“We have at least 89 people, many of them with serious injuries, admitted at different Kozhikode hospitals. The ambulances are still coming in,” said Sujith Das, another senior police official.

“We have been told that all those who have survived the crash also have some form of injuries.”

The flight had 174 adult passengers, 10 infants, two pilots and four cabin crew on board; all Indian citizens, officials said.

Regular commercial flights have been halted in India because of the coronavirus outbreak. Air India Express is a subsidiary of Air India.

Amitabh Kant, who heads the government’s planning commission, said the runway was 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.

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, said he was pained by the news of the crash, and that he had spoken to Kerala’s top elected official.

“My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest … Authorities are at the spot, providing all assistance to the affected,” he tweeted.

India’s worst air disaster happened on November 12, 1996, when a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight collided in midair with a Kazakhstan Airlines flight near Charki Dadri in Haryana state, killing all 349 on board the two planes. (Source: The Guardian)

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