190122 air india express
Air India Express has provided fee tickets to relatives of crash victims to fly from Dubai to Kerala. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: At least 17 people from Dubai rushed to Kerala on Saturday after learning about the fatal flight crash involving their loved ones, the Indian Consulate in Dubai told Gulf News.

Sixteen passengers as well as the pilot and co-pilot died when Air India Express Flight IX1344, a COVID-19 special repatriation flight under India’s Vande Bharat Mission, skidded off and overshot the tabletop runway at Calicut International Airport in the southern Indian state of Kerala on Friday.

The flight carrying 184 passengers and six crew members nose-dived into a valley before breaking into two pieces.

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Requests from 17 persons

Pavan Kapoor, the Indian Ambassador to the UAE, tweeted on Saturday morning: “Sincere condolences on this tragedy. We are assisting the next of kin and friends of the deceased to travel to India today.”

The Indian Consulate in Dubai, which remained open on a holiday to provide crash-related assistance, said it had received requests from at least 17 persons who wished to fly to Kerala on Saturday.

“Seventeen relatives or family members of crash victims approached us. Their details have been registered and they were offered full assistance,” said Neeraj Agrawal, Consul for Press, Information and Culture at the consulate.

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Free tickets

Agrawal said Air India Express has offered free tickets to the kith and kin of the crash victims. “It is the policy of the airline to offer free tickets to the kith and kin if there is any tragic incident like this. Seven passengers opted to go on Air India Express flights. The airline is offering them free tickets.” The rest of the relatives are flying flydubai and Emirates’ special repatriation flights to Kerala, he said.

Some of the relatives are flying to the same tabletop airport where the tragedy took place, while some others are flying to airports in Kannur and Kochi.

Assistance for travel documents

The mission also assured of assistance related to re-issuance of travel documents where needed. “Since the accident happened in Kerala, the Ministry of External Affairs will offer full assistance for re-issuing lost or damaged passports from there without any hassle. If UAE resident visa holders require any assistance in getting clearance for stamping their visas again, we will definitely take it up with the UAE government authorities also,” the mission said in a statement.

One of the injured, a mother of four, who survived the crash along with her children, told Gulf News that she had lost everything, including her passport and phone.

The diplomat said securing travel documents should not be a concern for the survivors as they will be offered full support. “Our prayers are there for their speedy recovery, after which they can sort out such issues,” he added.

Meanwhile, Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre and Al Hind Travel Agency also offered free tickets to the kith and kin of the crash victims who wished to fly on repatriation flights from the UAE.