In one of the worst air disasters witnessed in Kerala, an Air India Express flight, returning from Dubai under the Vande Bharat mission, skidded off the runaway at the "table top" Kozhikode airport leaving at least 18, of the 190 people on board, dead including the pilot, Capt D.V. Sathe. The plane plunged 35 feet into the valley below, as it landed on its second attempt amid heavy rain on Friday.
The mishap occurred at 7.41 p.m.
According to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Air India Express AXB1344, a B737 aircraft, with 190 people onboard, landed on Runway 10 amid visibility of 2,000 metres in heavy rain, but overshot and nosedived into the valley and broke into two pieces.
As per the Ministry of Civil Aviation, rescue operations are continuing and passengers are being taken to hospitals for medical care.
Authorities in Kerala, however, said that there were 184 people - 128 men, 46 women and 10 children - on board, as five people who had a ticket did not board the aircraft.
An eyewitness said that he rushed to the spot on hearing the sound of the crash. "I live around 20 metres away from the compound wall of the airport and hearing the loud sound a few of us came rushing. We saw the cockpit of the aircraft jutting out of the compound wall," the local resident said.
"We were a few people and we started to bang the airport gate, but the CISF personnel failed to open. We saw a fire engine and an ambulance arriving after which the CISF personnel asked for help and we rushed inside. We rescued the children first and assisted several others also," he added.
State Health Minister KK Shailaja said that the condition of a mother and child was reported to be serious.
Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan, who hails from the state, said the Karipur airport as it is known is a table top airport, and that was one reason why the plane plunged into the valley causing its middle part to break open.
Local legislator TV Ibrahim who was at a local hospital near the airport asked TV channels to beam the images of a young boy he was carrying in his arms as his parents were missing, so as to help the boy's relatives in locating him at the Kondotty Relief Hospital.
According to information from the spot, the passengers sitting in the front rows of the plane have been seriously injured.
The condition of 13 passengers who were brought to another private hospital is reported to be serious.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan expressed shock over the tragic mishap. The CM asked all govt 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 thrisur.
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.
Hardeep Singh Puri, Civil Aviation Minister said, “18 people, including two pilots, have lost their lives, it is unfortunate. 127 people are at hospitals, others have been released.”
“Our task would have been much more difficult if the plane had caught fire. I am going to the airport (Kozhikode International Airport in Karipur).”
(With inputs from IANS)
This is a developing story