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18 Killed after Air India Express Flight Overshoots Runway at Kozhikode and Snaps into Two

Rescue workers at the site of the crash in Kozhikode on Friday. (PTI)

Rescue workers at the site of the crash in Kozhikode on Friday. (PTI)

The plane, part of the Vande Bharat Mission to repatriate Indian nationals from overseas during the coronavirus lockdown, skidded off the tabletop runway and fell into a 35-feet deep valley.

At least 18 people, including both pilots, were killed after an Air India Express plane with more than 190 on board skidded off the runway on Friday at the Karipur airport in Kozhikode in Kerala. Officials said 16 of the 172 injured are in a critical condition.

The plane, part of the Vande Bharat Mission to repatriate Indian nationals from overseas during the coronavirus lockdown, skidded off the tabletop runway and fell into a 35-feet deep valley, breaking into two portions. Follow all the live updates here.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said he was deeply "anguished and distressed" at the accident and that relief teams from Air India and Airports Authority of India (AAI) have been dispatched from Delhi and Mumbai. "All efforts are being made to help passengers. A formal enquiry will be conducted by AAIB (Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau)," he said on Twitter.

"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 the crash appears to have been caused by a slippery runway.

NDRF Director General SN Pradhan said 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," he said.

An air traffic controller said luckily the aircraft, which took off from Dubai at 2 pm and was scheduled to land in Kozhikode at 7.27 pm, didn’t catch fire. “We immediately started rescue efforts with the support of local people.”

According to officials of the Kerala Police, all the 172 injured have been shifted to various hospitals nearby. It had been raining heavily at the time of the accident.

"Air India Express flight IX 1344 operated by B737 aircraft from Dubai to Calicut overshot runway at Kozhikode at 1941 hours tonight. No fire reported at the time of landing," Air India Express said in a statement. "There are 174 passengers, 10 infants, two pilots and five cabin crew on board the aircraft."

"Due to crash landing of the flight, it may affect the network but the Vande Bharat Mission continues," the airline added.

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 regulator said the flight -- IX 1344 -- continued running to the end of the runway amid heavy rain and "fell down in the valley and broke down in two pieces".

"The aircraft didn’t land properly. It was raining heavily, it then skid 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 CNN-News18. "We are ascertaining the situation."

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said he has instructed the police and fire force to take urgent action. "Have also directed the officials to make necessary arrangements for rescue and medical support," he added in a tweet.

The CM also said that minister AC Moideen will lead the rescue efforts at the Kozhikode International Airport. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Vijayan on phone about the crash where he was informed that a team of officials, including the Kozhikode and Malappuram District Collectors and Inspector General IG Ashok Yadav, have arrived at the airport and are participating in the rescue operation, said the Kerala Chief Minister's Office (CMO) in a statement. Tweeting about the incident, Modi expressed anguish at the loss of lives.

The Kozhikode Collector said relatives of passengers onboard the flight can contact the following helpline for inquiries: 0495-2376901.

The Air India Express is a wholly owned subsidiary of Air India and it has only B737 aircraft in its fleet.

The Indian consulates in Dubai and Sharjah have activated five helpline numbers to provide information to the family members of the flight.

"We pray for the wellbeing of passengers and crew and will keep you updated as and when we receive further updates. Our helplines +97156 5463903, +971543090572, +971543090571, +971543090575," said Aman Puri, Consul General of India.

The helpline number to call in Sharjah for updates is +97165970303.

He also said the Indian consulate will be available for any assistance it may be able to render at this time of grief.

(With inputs from agencies)

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