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Kerala plane crash: 18 dead after Air India plane breaks in two at Calicut

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An Air India Express plane with 190 people on board has crashed at an airport in the southern state of Kerala, killing at least 18 people, officials say.

The Boeing 737, en route from Dubai, skidded off the runway in rain and broke in two after landing at Calicut airport, aviation officials said.

The flight was repatriating Indians stranded by the coronavirus crisis.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “pained by the plane accident”.

The rescue operation at the crash site has now been completed and survivors have been taken to hospitals in Calicut and Malappuram, according to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Dozens of people were injured, 156of them seriously, officials say.

Air India Express said the two pilots were among the dead.

What do we know about the crash?

Flight IX 1134 was carrying 184 passengers, including 10 infants, and six crew.

The aircraft crashed at 19:40 local time (14:10 GMT) on Friday, as it attempted to land for a second time at Calicut International Airport. The first attempt was aborted by the pilots because of the heavy monsoon-season rainfall lashing Kerala.

India’s Civil Aviation Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, tweeted that the aircraft “overshot the runway in rainy conditions”, then plunged down a 35ft (10.6m) slope, before breaking in two.

He said a formal inquiry would be carried out by India’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB).

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The director general of India’s National Disaster Response Force, S N Pradhan, said Calicut airport had a “table-top runway” and that the aircraft fell into “a ditch” after skidding across it.

He said the impact with the bottom of the ditch caused the fuselage to break in two, and that the front half was “very badly mangled and damaged”.

Mr Puri told broadcaster DD News that first responders were able to rescue the passengers because the plane did not catch fire. Several people had to be cut free.

At the time of the plane’s descent, Kerala was being battered by heavy rains, which are usual in India at this time of year, due to the seasonal monsoon.

Earlier on Friday, dozens of people were feared dead in Kerala’s Idukki district after monsoon-season floods triggered a landslide.

What reaction has there been?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted to express his sympathy for “those who lost their loved ones” in the crash.

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan said: “Very sad to know of this mishap. All our feelings are with the passengers and their families.”

Rahul Gandhi, who is an MP for a district in Kerala, said he was “shocked at the devastating news of the plane mishap in Kozhikode”.

Bollywood actors Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan also expressed their condolences, as did India’s cricket captain, Virat Kohli.

Have there been similar plane crashes in India?

Plane crashes have happened before during the monsoon season, which lasts from June to September and wreaks havoc across south Asia every year.

In May 2010, 158 people died when an Air India Express flight overshot Mangalore airport runway and crashed.

A similar incident happened in July 2019 in Mangalore, prompting an inquiry, but causing no fatalities.

SourceBBC News

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