The death toll from the crash of an Air India Express plane that overshot the runway in heavy rain near Kozhikode has risen to 19 on Friday morning, officials said as top aviation experts landed in the state to begin an investigation into the accident.
As many as 172 people have been hospitalized after the accident, with officials involved in the rescue operations saying that 16 of them are in a critical condition. Civil aviation minister Hardeep Puri said the accident appears to have been caused by a slippery runway as the pilot attempted to land on the tabletop runway amid heavy rains.
“Under the Vande Bharat Mission, the flight was coming from Dubai carrying 190 passengers. The pilot must have tried to bring the flight to the end of the tabletop airport’s runway where it skidded due to slippery conditions owing to the monsoon,” he said.
The government has sent two special relief flights from Delhi and from Mumbai for rendering humanitarian assistance to all the passengers and the family members.
The Boeing-737 flight from Dubai to Calicut International Airport was carrying “174 passengers, 10 infants, 2 pilots, and 5 cabin crew. As per initial reports, rescue operations are on and passengers are being taken to hospital,” Rajeev Jain, Additional DG Media, Civil Aviation Ministry said.
Television footage showed rescue workers moving around the wreckage in the pouring rain. The aircraft lay split into at least two chunks after the plane’s fuselage sheared apart as it fell into a valley 35 feet below, authorities said.
“Because of the weather conditions, he could not land the first time, so he did a turnaround and tried to approach it from a different direction,” Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told national broadcaster DD News, adding that only an investigation would reveal the cause of the crash.
India’s top aviation body, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has ordered a detailed inquiry into the matter. It said the plane broke into “two pieces” after landing at the airport.
“The aircraft didn’t land properly. It was raining heavily, it then skids off the runway and fell into a 35-ft valley. Two dead is what we know as per initial reports but the rescue operation is on,” DGCA Director Arun Kumar told. “We are ascertaining the situation.”
(With inputs from TimesNowNews)