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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

At least 16 dead as India airliner crashes on landing

The aircraft overshot and skidded off the runway as it landed in southern India [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 August, 2020

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A passenger jet repatriating Indians stranded abroad due to the Covid-19 pandemic crashed upon landing, leaving at least 16 dead.

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At least 16 people were killed Friday when a passenger jet overshot and skidded off the runway as it landed in southern India, breaking into two pieces, officials said.

Dozens of people were injured, 15 of them seriously, after the Air India Express Boeing 737 originating from Dubai touched down in Kozhikode in heavy rain.

The airline said more than 190 passengers and crew were on board the plane that, according to the aviation ministry, plunged 10 metres (35 feet) down a slope off the end of the raised so-called table-top runway. 

Television footage showed the fuselage of the jet ripped apart and surrounded by emergency personnel working in the dark, spraying the wreckage with water although there was no sign of any fire.

Sakeen K., the district medical officer in the nearby city of Malappuram, said that 16 people had died.

"We are still ascertaining the toll," she told AFP.

Kozhikode official Seeram Sambasiva said that the two pilots were among the dead.

Senior local policeman Abdul Karim told AFP said that another 15 passengers "have critical injuries. It is still a developing situation."

"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."

Aviation regulator DGCA said the plane skidded off the end of the runway and "fell down in the valley and broke down in two pieces".

Four people were still stuck inside the plane. media reports said.

One television channel reported there had been a problem with the jet's landing gear.

Air India Express said in a statement that there was "no fire reported at the time of landing."

It said there were 174 passengers, 10 infants, two pilots and five cabin crew on board the aircraft.

Coronavirus repatriation

The plane was one of dozens in recent weeks to repatriate some of the thousands of Indians left stranded abroad by the coronavirus pandemic, many of them in Gulf countries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences.

"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," Modi said.

The last major plane crash in India was in 2010 when an Air India Express Boeing 737-800 from Dubai to Mangalore overshot the runway and burst into flames. 

The crash killed 158 people and left eight survivors.

Kerala has been battered by heavy rains in recent days. 

At least 15 people were killed on Friday after a landslide triggered by heavy rains flattened a row of huts elsewhere in the state.

Around 50 other people were feared trapped in the debris. The dead included two children.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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