In Kerala’s biggest plane accident, an Air India Express aircraft carrying 190 people on board, including crew, from Dubai to Calicut airport skidded off the table-top runway while landing in bad weather, fell 35 feet onto a road below and split into two at 7.41pm on Friday.
At least 19 persons, including pilot Commander Deepak Vasanth Sathe and co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar, died while 40 suffered grievous injuries.
The injured have been admitted to nearby hospitals.
An official statement by the airline said the flight IX 1344 from Dubai to Kozhikode was a part of the ongoing Vande Bharat mission to bring stranded Indians from abroad.
“There were 184 passengers, including 10 infants, two pilots and four cabin crew members on board the aircraft. No fire was reported at the time of the landing,” the statement said.
Rescue operations were launched with the help of local residents who gathered after hearing the loud noise.
Fire and rescue teams of Kozhikode and Malappuram districts also rushed to the spot soon after the incident.
The plane had overshot runway at 1941 hrs Friday night, according to a statement from Rajeev Jain, Additional DG, Media, Ministry of Civil Aviation
After skidding, it fell onto the side of the nearby Cross Belt Road along the Kondotty-Kunnumpuram stretch.
The aircraft had a 35-meter deep fall, splitting it into two pieces, leaving the debris all over the runway. Though a thick smoke came out from the cockpit, no fire was reported.
The passengers who suffered major injuries were shifted to Kozhikode and Manjeri medical college hospitals. Rescue work got over at midnight.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation said it would investigate the crash. The flights scheduled to land at the Kozhikode airport were diverted to Kannur and Kochi. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan expressed shock over the tragedy.
“Arrangments have been made at Kozhikode Medical College Hospital, Beach Hospital, Farooq Hospital and other private hospitals,” said Health Minister K K Shailaja.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who represents Wayanad in Parliament, said he was shocked by the accident.
“Deepest condolences to the friends and families of those who died in this accident. Prayers for the speedy recovery of the injured,” he said.
A spokesman said he can't reveal the names of the dead as their families need to be informed first.
Details of the deceased #Karipur #airindia #planecrash— TNIE Kerala (@xpresskerala) August 7, 2020
Of the 11 died, bodies of six identified.
1. C P Rajeevan (61), Cherikka Parambil, Kokkallur, Kozhikode. 2. Sharafudheen (35), Mele Maruthakottil, Kunnamangalam, Pilasserry, Kozhikode. (1/n)
"As per the latest information from state authorities, search and rescue operation is over and all injured have been shifted to various hospitals. Air India Dubai helpline is +97142079444. CGI Dubai expresses its deep condolences for deceased passengers", informed Indian Embassy in Dubai.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered a detailed inquiry into the matter.
Such runways, which are located on hilltops, create the optical illusion of being at the same level as the plains below when a pilot comes in for a landing.
“The Kozhikode airport landing strip is a tabletop, like the one at Mangaluru. If the engine of the plane had caught fire, the devastation would have been massive,” said Kondotty MLA T V Ibrahim.
“As per the initial assessment, the table-top runway along with bad weather resulted in the unusual landing, leading to the mishap,” the MLA said.
The incident brought back the nightmares of the May 22, 2010 crash of Air India Express flight IX812 at Mangaluru airport when the plane, after unable to land on the table-top runway, fell off the cliff and burst into flames, killing 158 people.
A control room has been opened at the airport. The helpline number is 04832719493.
It had been raining heavily at the time of the accident.
Chief Minister also asked all government agencies to engage in rescue operations using all facilities.
He instructed AC Moideen, minister for local bodies, to coordinate the rescue operations and deputed Kozhokode IG of Police to oversee the rescue operation.
Health authorities also have been instructed to provide all possible medical aid to save the lives of victims.
"Distressed to learn of this accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the passengers and their families," Pavan Kapoor, Ambassador of India to the United Arab Emirates said while reacting to the mishap.
"Deeply anguished and distressed at the air accident in Kozhikode. Air India Express flight number AXB-1344 from Dubai to Kozhikode, overshot the runway in rainy conditions and went down 35 ft. into a slope before breaking up into two pieces," said Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri.
"Two investigation teams of professionals from Air India, Airports Authority of India & AAIB will leave for Kozhikode at 02.00 hrs & 05.00 hours. Rescue operations are now complete. Injured being treated at various city hospitals," he further said.
"PM Narendra Modi spoke to Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan on phone about Karipur plane crash. CM informed PM that a team of officials including Kozhikode & Malappuram District Collectors & IG Ashok Yadav have arrived at the airport & participating in the rescue operation," Kerala CMO said in a statement.
The Civil Aviation Ministry did an urgent meeting which is underway at Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan. DGCA Director-General and officials of the ministry, Airport Authority of India and Air India Express were in the meeting.
"Deeply saddened to hear about the accident of Air India Express flight IX1344 upon landing at Kozhikode airport. Our thoughts are with all those affected by this accident," International Air Transport Association (IATA) said in its reaction.
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
LANDING ON A TABLETOP RUNWAY
Runways located in high altitude with one of both ends adjacent to a drop are known as tabletop runways.
Such runways create the optical illusion of being at the same level as the plains below when a pilot comes in for a landing.
The incident brought back the nightmares of the May 22, 2010, crash of Air India Express flight IX 812 at Mangaluru International Airport. The plane slipped off the tabletop runway, fell off the cliff and burst into flames killing 158 passengers.
Shah asks NDRF to assist the rescue efforts
Union Home Minister Amit Shah directed the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) on Friday night to rush to the spot at Kerala's Kozhikode to assist in the rescue-and-relief operations.
"Distressed to learn about the tragic accident of Air India Express aircraft in Kozhikode, Kerala. Have instructed NDRF to reach the site at the earliest and assist with the rescue operations," Shah tweeted.
"We must remember that it is a tabletop runway at Kozhikode. There seems to have been injuries among all the passengers and some of them are unconscious. An NDRF team has been rushed to the spot and should be reaching any time there to join search &rescue operation," said NDRF DG SN Pradhan.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, a Lok Sabha MP from Wayanad, also tweeted his condolences.
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
Kerala CM asked all government agencies to engage in rescue operations
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan expressed his shock at the tragic mishap.
The CM asked all government agencies to engage in rescue operations using all government facilities.
The CM has deputed A C Moideen, minister for local bodies, to coordinate the rescue operations. AC Moideen has already left for Karipur from Thrissur.
CM also has deputed an IG of Police to oversee the rescue operation. Fire and Rescue teams of two district's also have been engaged.
Health authorities have been instructed to provide all possible medical aid to save lives of victims.
President Kovind, Kerala Governor and Union Minister offer condolences
"Deeply distressed to hear about tragic plane crash of Air India Express flight at Kozhikode, Kerala. Spoke to Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and inquired about the situation. Thoughts and prayers with affected passengers, crew members and their families", said President Ram Nath Kovind.
"My heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives following the crashlanding of Air India Express flight at Karipur. My prayers for the speedy recovery of those injured", Kerala Arif Mohammed Khan said.
"It's a sad and unfortunate incident. Perhaps, because of heavy rain in Calicut, it seems the pilot could not land and then in second attempt he landed but there was hard landing, after which aircraft skid off beyond runway," MoS MEA V Muraleedharan said while reacting on the plane crash incident.
Among those died, six bodies have been identified.
1. Mohammad Riyaz VP (24), Palakkad
2. Shaheer Ziyad (38), Malappuram
3. Lailabi K V (51), Malappuram
4. Rajeevan Chekkaraparamabil (61), Kozhikode
5. Manal Ahammad (25), Kozhikode
6. Sharafuddeen (35), Kozhikode
7. Janaki Kunnoth (55), Kozhikode
8. Azam Mohammad Chembayi (1), Kozhikode
9. Shantha Marakkat (59), Malappuram
10. Akhilesh Kumar (crew member)
11. Deepak Sathe (crew member)
12. Sudheer Variyath (45), Malappuram
13. Shaiza Fathima (2), Malappuram
14. Ramya Muraleedhran (32), Kozhikode
15. Ayisha Dua (2), Palakkad
16. Shivathmika (5), Kozhikode
17. Shenobia (40), Kozhikode
18. Shahina Bhanu (29), Kozhikode
(With Agencies' Inputs)