Dubai: An Air India Express flight from Dubai skidded off the runway at its destination Karipur Airport, Kozhikode, in the south Indian state of Kerala on Friday, and broke into two. The flight, IX1344, was part of the Vande Bharat repatriation mission. As per the latest information from state authorities, the search and rescue operation is over and all injured have been shifted to various hospitals, reported ANI.
At least 18 people were killed and dozens of people were injured, 15 of them seriously, after the Air India Express Boeing 737 from Dubai - a coronavirus evacuation flight - plunged down a slope in heavy rain on its second attempt to land in Kozhikode. The fuselage was ripped apart and surrounded by emergency personnel working in the dark. Video footage showed them spraying the wreckage with water, although there was no sign of any fire. The number aboard the aircraft, as per a statement released by Air India Express, is 190.
"The rescue mission took longer than expected because of fuel leak," Mallappuram Collector K Gopalakrishnan told media.
Late on Friday, the Indian Consulate in Dubai tweeted: "Consulate will be open tomorrow (Saturday August 8) at 8am to assist all who want any assistance to travel to Kerala or any information related to aircrash incident. We are with all the families of injured and deceased and will do our best to assist them."
Farhan Yasin, CEO at Aster MIMS Hospital – Calicut and Kannur, confirmed to Gulf News that they have received 36 patients and 10-15 more patients are in transit from Karipur Airport to the hospital in Calicut.
Yasin said three people who were rushed to the hospital have been declared dead, including the pilot and co-pilot while seven are in critical situation and 15 are in stable condition.
“Doctors are evaluating the condition of the other patients,” said Yasin, adding “Most of the passengers sustained burns, fractures and head injuries.”
Pilot and co-pilot
The pilot, captain Dipak Vasant Sathe, has died, said Air India. Captain Deepak Vasant Sathe was an Indian Air Force veteran who retired in June 2003 as Wing Commander before joining Air India.
His co-pilot has also passed away, reported AsiaNet.
16 people hasve been admitted in Baby Memorial Hospital, Kozhikode.
Both Dubai and Sharjah have also set up helplines.
The number to call in Sharjah for updates (set up by Air India Express): 00971 6 5970303.
The numbers to call in Dubai (set up by Indian Consulate): 056 546 3903, 0543090572, 0543090572, 0543090575; (set up by Air india Express) 0097142079444
Community groups in Dubai, Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre and All Kerala Colleges Alumni Forum Task Force, have also launched helpline numbers
KMCC Helpline numbers
04 272 7773
AKCAF Task Force Helpline numbers
A survivor of the crash was quoted by Malayalam channel Janam TV as saying that after the flight landed and skid off the runway, it went on for a few minutes, the front portion of the plane crashed. The front seats were occupied mostly by families. People in the front half of the plane suffered injuries, those towards the end escaped with minor injuries.
What exactly happened?
Flight IX1344 made an overall of three landing attempts, Hamburg-based Aviation Safety expert group tweeted. The first one was over runway 10, the second over runway 28, and the third and fatal approach was over runway 10 again when the accident occurred.
How does this affect the Vande Bharat Mission?
Air India Express issued a statement after the fact. "We regret that there has been an incident regarding our aircraft VT GHK, operating IX 1344 DXB CCJ. Due to crash landing of the flight, it may affect the network but Vande Bharat Mission continues," it said.
How is Dubai helping?
Consul General of India in Dubai, Dr. Aman Puri told Gulf News that the flight carried 128 male passengers, 46 female passengers and 10 infants.
“Our deepest condolences to the families of who have been injured. We are trying to assess the current situation about passengers and the pilots and the numbers of those who are injured in this tragic incident. We can confirm that the flight took off at 1:45pm and it had 128 male passengers, 46 female passengers and 10 infants.”
“We are very sorry about the accident involving our citizens flying home on a repatriation flight. We are also sorry that this is the second tragedy in Kerala today,” he said, referring to the landslide in Idukki.
Puri said all the four helplines of the consulate will be available 24 hours to answer any queries and provide information to the family members of the passengers.
The Consulate in Dubai also tweeted later in the evening: "Consulate will be open tomorrow Saturday August 8 at 8 AM to assist all who want any assistance to travel to Kerala or any information related to aircrash incident. We are with all the families of injured and deceased and will do our best to assist them."
“We have been informed that the Airport Authority of India are providing all the assistance to the passengers. Relevant authorities will be releasing more information from India.”
Health Minister KK Shailaja meanwhile was quoted as saying to Manorama: "Patients in serious condition being admitted to MIMs hospital and Kozhikode Medical College, a mother and child have been admitted at the Medical College hospital -critical state."
"Dubai-Kozhikode Air India flight (IX-1344) skidded during landing at Karipur Airport at around 7.45 pm today," a spokesperson for Kondotty Police was quoted as saying by ANI.
"There were 6 crew members onboard, including two pilots," said Air India Express.
"The Dubai-Kozhikode Air India Express flight fell down into the valley after landing at Runway 10 of Karipur Airport and broke into two pieces. There were 191 people on board," said Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
"Visibility was 2000 meters at the time of landing."
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered a detailed inquiry to find out what went wrong.
Alphons KJ, Former Minister of State for Tourism (Independent Charge), Govt. of India, tweeted: "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."
Table-top landing strip
The Calicut airport has the shortest runway of the four airports in the state and is one of just three table top runways in the country. "We must remember that it is a tabletop runway at Kozhikode. There seems to have been injuries among all the passengers & some of them are unconscious. An NDRF team has been rushed to the spot & should be reaching any time there to join search &rescue operation: NDRF DG SN Pradhan, told ANI.
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.
Last major crash
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.
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.
Accountant who flew home to write his MBA final exam injured
One of the passengers, who has been injured in the crash, has been identified as an accountant who flew home for writing MBA final exam.
Vijesh Mulamukkil from Tirur was seated on seat 3A and has been hospitalised with injuries, E.P. Johnson, president of Indian Association Sharjah told Gulf News.
He said another passenger has been identified as Mohammed Shareef, 38, from Malappuram who worked in a salon in Rolla.
“We don’t know his seat number and what happened to him. We are deeply saddened about the tragedy. We are trying to reach out to the families and friends of all the people.”
The Indian Association Sharjah has also set up the following helpline numbers to assist families and friends. 0504828472, 0506266546, 0503675770, 0506268175