A repatriation flight Air India Express IX-1344 bringing 184 passengers, including 10 infants from Dubai to India, broke into two while landing at Karipur International Airport in Kerala's Kozhikode on Friday evening, killing at least 17 people, including the pilot and the copilot besides injuring several passengers.
The flight was operated under the Central government's Vande Bharat Mission and was being operated by Air India Express.
The DGCA said the flight " IX 1344 " continued running to the end of the runway amid heavy rain and fell down in a gorge and "broke down in two pieces".
"No fire reported at the time of landing," it noted.
The mishap occurred at 1941 hrs. No fire was reported at the time of landing, an AIE statement said.
Malappuram Collector K Gopalakrishnan told PTI that 17 people have died in the mishap.
The identities of the dead has not been confirmed yet, however, former Union tourism minister KJ Alphons initially claimed that the pilot of the plane died in the accident.
Second tragedy of the day in Kerala : Air India Express skids off the run way at Kozhikode, front portion splits , pilot dies and lots of passengers injured . All passengers evacuated. Very lucky the aircraft didn't catch fire @narendramodi @JPNadda
" Alphons KJ (@alphonstourism) August 7, 2020
An Air India Express spokesperson told PTI that the aircraft apparently overshot the runway. Air India Express has only Boeing 737 planes in its fleet. "As per the initial reports rescue operations are on and passengers are being taken to hospital for medical care. We will soon share the update in this regard," the civil aviation ministry stated. An earlier report from ANI quoted Mallappuram SP as saying that of the 123 passengers injured in the crash, 15 have received serious injuries.
Air India Express said that there were six crew members on board including two pilots.
The flight crew included Commander Deepak Vasant Sathe, co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar, and cabin crew members Shilpa Dashra Katare, Akshay Pal Singh, Lalit kumar and Abhik Biswas.
Twenty-four ambulances rushed to the airport.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan expressed shock over the accident and asked all government agencies to engage in rescue operations using all government facilities.
The Chief Minister has deputed state minister AC Moideen to coordinate the rescue operations.
An IG of police has been deputed to oversee the rescue operations.
Rescue operation by NDRF at the crash site in Kozhikode. pic.twitter.com/QIZrrnEbBY
" Prasar Bharati News Services (@PBNS_India) August 7, 2020
Fire and Rescue teams of two districts " Kozhikode and Malappuram " have been engaged.
According to information from Kozhikode medical college, seriously injured people have been admitted there. The condition of a mother and child injured in the accident was very serious, Health Minister KK Shailaja said.
"The weather conditions are what they are... Visibilty was low... The aircraft would not (be) brought to halt..," said Union civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri.
He also said that the rescue operation is still ongoing and that about 140 plus passengers have been admitted to hospital.
As per the flight manifest there were 190 people on flight AXB-1344 including 174 adult passengers,10 infants, 4 cabin crew & 2 pilots. Unfortunately, 16 people have lost their lives. I offer my heartfelt condolences to their next of kin & pray for speedy recovery of the injured. " Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) August 7, 2020
Help centres setup in Sharjah, Dubai and India
Help centres are being set up in Sharjah and Dubai, the ministry said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Consulate General of India in Dubai tweeted four helpline numbers: 0565463903, 0543090572, 0543090572, 0543090575.
The Kozhikode collector said that relatives of passengers onboard Air India Express Flight IX 1344 can contact the helpline number 04952376901 for enquiries.
CMO sources said Chief Minister spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the latter assured him all help and assistance from the Centre.
Vijayan informed him that rescue operations were in full swing, the sources said.
Modi as well as several leaders from the Opposition expressed shock over the incident. Modi tweeted:
Pained by the plane accident in Kozhikode. My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest. Spoke to Kerala CM @vijayanpinarayi Ji regarding the situation. Authorities are at the spot, providing all assistance to the affected.
" Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 7, 2020
Former Congerss president Rahul Gandhi said that he was shocked at the devastating news of the plane mishap in Kozhikode and offered his condolences to friends and family of those who died in the accident.
Shocked at the devastating news of the plane mishap in Kozhikode. Deepest condolences to the friends and family of those who died in this accident. Prayers for the speedy recovery of the injured. " Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 7, 2020
The US Ambassador to India Ken Juster also expressed his condolences.
On behalf of the U.S. Mission, we are deeply saddened by the news of the Air India accident in Kozhikode. The victims and their loved ones are in our thoughts and prayers.
" Ken Juster (@USAmbIndia) August 7, 2020
In a show of solidarity, IndiGo Airlines tweeted out its grief over the loss of lives in the accident.
DGCA had warned Kozhikode airport last year
The DGCA had last year issued a show-cause notice to Karipur International Airport (also known as Calicut International Airport) after an audit revealed some "significant safety concerns", according to a Times of India report.
Some of the safety concerns cited in the report included "excessive rubber deposits", which it said "can be dangerous for safe landings in the heavy rains" as they can reduce the friction of the runway strip.
The report had also found cracks and stagnant water on parts of the runway.
The DGCA has ordered a detailed inquiry into the incident.
With inputs from agencies