18 dead as Indian Jet splits into two

Fierce rain and winds lashed a plane carrying 190 people before it crash-landed and tore in two at an airport in southern India, killing at least 18 people and injuring scores more, officials said Saturday.

The Air India Express Boeing 737, on a special flight from Dubai to bring back Indians stranded overseas by the coronavirus pandemic, overshot the runway at Kozhikode in Kerala state late Friday, plunged down an embankment and broke up, according to first accounts.

“Fuel had leaked out so it was a miracle that the plane did not catch fire, the toll could have been much higher,” one senior emergency official at the scene said.

Passenger Renjith Panangad, 34, recalled the plane touching the ground and then everything went “blank”.

“After the crash, the emergency door opened and I dragged myself out somehow,” he told AFP from a hospital bed in Kozhikode. The front part of the plane was gone — it was completely gone. I don’t know how I made it but I’m grateful. I am still shaken.”

Aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the death toll had risen during the night to 18.

The fatalities included the two pilots as well as infants aged 10 months and 18 months, according to a hospital list seen by AFP. At least 15 people suffered critical injuries, doctors said.

Kozhikode is considered a tricky airport as it has a table-top runway with a steep drop at one end.

Kerala has been hit by severe floods in recent days and heavy rains had been falling for several hours at Kozhikode as the jet landed

Local taxi drivers and traders joined airport rescue staff to help free people from the wreckage in the dark and wet.

Several people on board had to be cut out with special equipment. It took three hours to clear all the injured and bodies, officials said. Taxis ferried many of the injured to hospitals.

“Locals also rushed to the spot after hearing the noise,” one rescue worker said. “People came in cars, messages were being sent on WhatsApp… that people were needed to help.

Olabamerun Oluwatise

"The first sentence can't be written until the final sentence is written"

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