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17 killed as Air India repatriation flight crash-lands

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A Boeing – 737 flight from Dubai to Calicut International Airport, India carrying 190 passengers, majority of whom were repatriating Indian passengers stranded by the Covid-19 pandemic overshot the runway in heavy rain and crash lands, killing at least 17, including both pilots on Friday.

10 of the dead were infants, according to reports by Reuters. Another 47 were seriously injured.

Television footage monitored on CNN showed rescue workers moving around the wreckage in pouring rain tearing through the split aircraft which plunged into a valley 35 feet below, according to the aviation authorities.

Indian’s Civil Aviation Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri told CNN that “There were 174 passengers, 10 infants, 2 pilots, 4 cabin crew onboard the aircraft”, adding that “no fire reported at the time of landing”. The flight’s four crew members were confirmed safe.

 “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,” Singh Puri told national broadcaster DD News, adding that only an investigation would reveal the cause of the crash.

Puri said authorities managed to rescue most of the passengers because the plane did not catch fire while descending the slope at the end of the table-top runway. Such runways are located at an altitude and have steep drops at one or both ends.

“The good news is that the plane broke up and we were able to access the passengers,” Puri said. He said rescue operations had been completed.

The office of the chief minister of Kerala state, where the airport is located and which is home to a large number of Indians working in the Middle East, said that in addition to the 17 dead, 173 others had been hospitalised.

It was India’s worst passenger aircraft accident since 2010, when another Air India Express flight from Dubai overshot the table-top runway at Mangalore, a city in the south, and slid down a hill, killing 158 people.

The plane’s manufacturer, Boeing said it was gathering more information about the incident, closely monitoring the situation and offering assistance to its customer.

India, which shut down all air travel in late March to try to contain the novel coronavirus, has restarted limited international air travel. Air India Express AXB1344 was a government-operated repatriation flight for Indians previously unable to return home because of the travel restrictions.

Local TV news channels showed passengers, some of them lying motionless on stretchers, brought into a hospital surrounded by health workers wearing masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Pained by the plane accident in Kozhikode” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted. “My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest.”

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