Malappuram: Eighteen people were killed as an Air India Express flight from Dubai skidded off the runway and broke into two while landing at the Calicut International Airport (Karipur Airport) on Friday at 7:40pm.
The aircraft, carrying 190 including 184 passengers and six crew, fell into a 35-feet deep gorge and its fuselage split into two, said Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
After landing, the flight continued running to the end of the runway and fell down in the valley and broke into two portions, the statement said.
Eyewitnesses claimed that they had seen fire and smoke rising from the plane.
The deceased included flight's pilot Commander Captain Deepak Sathe and co-pilot Akhilesh. Sathe was a former Wing Commander of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and had served at the force's flight testing establishment.
"Unfortunately the pilots have passed away and we are in touch with their families in grief," said an Air India Express statement past midnight.
The deceased have been identified as natives of Malappuram, Kozhikode and Palakkad districts.
1. Mohammed Riyas V P,24, from Palakkad district
2. Saheer Sayed, 38, of Malappuram
3. Lailabi K V, 51, of Malappuram
4. Rajeevan Cherikka Parambil, 61, of Kozhikode
5. Manal Ahamed, 25, of Kozhikode
6. Sharafudheen, 35, of Kozhikode
7. Janaky Kunnoth, 55, of Kozhikode
8. Azam Muhammed Chembayi, 1-year-old, of Kozhikode
9. Santha Marakkat, 59, of Malappuram
10. Akhilesh Kumar, 32 (Airline crew)
11. Deepak Sathe, 58 (Airline crew)
12. Sudheer Vaariyath, 45, of Malappuram
13. Sheza Fathima, 2, of Malappuram
14. Remya Muraleedharan, 32, of Kozhikode
15. Aysha Dua, 2, of Palakkad
16. Shivathmika, 5, of Kozhikode
17. Zhenobia, 40, of Kozhikode
18. Sahira Banu, 29, of Kozhikode
Here is the list of passengers who were onboard the flight:
Injured have been taken to various hospitals in Malappuram and Kozhikode districts. Conditions of some of them are said to be serious.
Riyas, one of the passengers, who was rescued, said the flight went around the airport twice before attempting to land.
"I was in the back seat. There was a big noise and I don't know what happened after that," he told a TV channel.
Fathima, another passenger, said the flight landed with heavy force and moved forward.
An emergency control room has opened at the airport. The phone number is: 0483-2719493. The district administration's helpline number is: 0495-2376901.
Till now, 174 people have been admitted to various hospitals in Kozhikode and 16 people are in critical condition.
The IX1344 flight from Dubai was operated as part of the Vande Bharat repatriation mission.
Thirty-two 108 ambulances have been dispatched to Karipur. District Disaster Management Authority has been tasked with the rescue operation.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has asked police and fire force personnel to take all measures.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah directed the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to rush to the spot to assist in the rescue and relief operations.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi were among several leaders who expressed shock at the accident.
Modi also spoke to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
"Pained by the plane accident in Kozhikode. My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest," the prime minister tweeted.
Heavy rain lashed the airport at the time of the accident.
Karipur airport has a tabletop runway (it is located atop a plateau or a small hill with one or both ends leading to a steep precipice). This type of runway creates an optical illusion which requires a very precise approach by the pilot.
After the 2010 crash at Mangalore airport that killed 158 people, a report prepared by a team of experts had cautioned that the airfield and similar others with tabletop runways including the Karipur airport and Lengpui airport in Mizoram 'require extra skill and caution while carrying out flight operations' due to 'the undulating terrain and constraints of space.'
The report even warned that the hazard posed "of undershooting and overshooting, in particular, can lead to grave situations."
Calicut Airport sees over 2.5 lakh passengers each month, according to a report published by Airports Authority of India.
This is the 7th accident to happen the 32-years-old airport that had long been an embarkation point for Haj pilgrimage and the largest flow of migrants to the Gulf nations. It is one of the seven top international airports in the country and sees over 2.5 lakh passengers each month, according to a report published by the Airports Authority of India.
Air India Express has only Boeing 737 planes in its fleet.
(This is a developing story.)