Kerala plane crash: 16 dead after Air India plane breaks in two at Calicut

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An Air India Express plane with 191 people on board has crashed at an airport in the southern state of Kerala, killing at least 16 people, officials say.

The Boeing 737, en route from Dubai, skidded off the runway in rain and broke in two after landing at Calicut airport, aviation officials said.

The flight was repatriating Indians stranded by the coronavirus crisis.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “pained by the plane accident”.

MK Raghavan, a lawmaker from Calicut, told the BBC at least 16 people died in the crash.

Most people on board the Boeing 737 jet have been evacuated, with dozens of them taken to hospital with injuries, some serious, authorities said.

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

The airline said there were 184 passengers, including 10 children, and seven crew members on board flight IX-1344 when it crashed in rainy conditions at Calicut, also known as Kozhikode.

What do we know about the crash?

The plane attempted to land just before 20:00 local time (15:30 BST) on Friday, as heavy monsoon-season rainfall lashed Kerala.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said the plane fell into a valley and broke in two after skidding off the end of the runway. No fire was reported at the time of landing, the aviation regulator said.

In a tweet India’s Civil Aviation Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, said the aircraft “overshot the runway in rainy conditions”, then plunged down a 35ft (10.6m) slope, before breaking in two.

He said a formal inquiry would be carried out by India’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB).

@HardeepSPuri

Report

@HardeepSPuri

Report

Images broadcast by Indian media show the aircraft broken in two pieces at the bottom of the slope, with people searching through the wreckage.

The aircraft circled the airport several times and made two attempts to land, NDTV reported, citing flight-tracking data.

At the time of the plane’s descent, Kerala was being battered by heavy rains, which are usual in India at this time of year, due to the seasonal monsoon.

Earlier on Friday, dozens of people were feared dead in Kerala’s Idukki district after monsoon-season floods triggered a landslide.

What reaction has there been?

India’s prime minister tweeted to express his sympathy for “those who lost their loved ones” in the crash.

The Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, said he spoke on the phone to Mr Modi, who told him the government would provide medical and rescue support.

Rahul Gandhi, who is an MP for a district in Kerala, said he was “shocked at the devastating news of the plane mishap in Kozhikode”.

What other major plane crashes have happened in India?

Plane crashes have happened before during the monsoon season, which lasts from June to September and wreaks havoc across south Asia every year.

In May 2010, 158 people died when an Air India Express flight overshot Mangalore airport runway and crashed.

A similar incident happened in July 2019 in Mangalore, prompting an inquiry.

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