In­dia plane from Dubai skids off runway, cracks, killing 18

Deputy Amir con­doles over ac­ci­dent

Arab Times - - FRONT PAGE -

KOCHI, In­dia, Aug 8, (Agen­cies): The plane swayed vi­o­lently as it ap­proached a hill­top runway drenched in mon­soon rain, and mo­ments later the spe­cial re­turn flight for In­di­ans stranded abroad by the pan­demic skid­ded off, nose­dived and cracked in two, leav­ing 18 dead and more than 120 in­jured.

Among the in­jured on Fri­day night, at least 15 were in crit­i­cal con­di­tion, said Ab­dul Karim, a se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer in south­ern Ker­ala state. The dead in­cluded both pi­lots of the Air In­dia Ex­press flight, the air­line said in a state­ment, adding that the four cabin crew were safe.

Mean­while, His High­ness the Deputy Amir and Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ah­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah on Satur­day ca­bled In­dian Pres­i­dent Ram Nath Kovind ex­press­ing heart­felt con­do­lences over vic­tims of the plane ac­ci­dent that left a num­ber of pas­sen­gers dead or wounded.

His High­ness the Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Ha­mad Al-Sabah ad­dressed a ca­ble with iden­ti­cal con­tent to the In­dian pres­i­dent.

The 2-year-old Boe­ing 737-800 flew from Dubai to Kozhikode, also called Cali­cut, in Ker­ala. There were 174 adult pas­sen­gers, 10 in­fants, two pi­lots and four cabin crew on board.

In a tele­phone in­ter­view from his hos­pi­tal bed, Ren­jith Panan­gad, a plumber who was re­turn­ing home for the first time in three years after los­ing his job at a con­struc­tion com­pany in Dubai, said the plane swayed be­fore the crash and ev­ery­thing went dark.

He said he fol­lowed other pas­sen­gers who crawled their way out of the fuse­lage through the emer­gency door.

“A lot of pas­sen­gers were bleed­ing,” said Panan­gad, who es­caped with­out ma­jor in­juries. “I still can’t com­pre­hend what hap­pened. As I am try­ing to re­call what hap­pened, my body is shiv­er­ing.”

He said the pi­lot made a reg­u­lar an­nounce­ment be­fore land­ing, and mo­ments after the plane hit the runway, it nose­dived.

“There was a big noise dur­ing the im­pact and peo­ple started scream­ing,” he said.

Kozhikode’s 2,850-me­ter (9,350-foot) runway is on a flat hill­top with deep gorges on ei­ther side end­ing in a 34-me­ter (112-foot) drop.

Civil Avi­a­tion Min­is­ter Hardeep S. Puri said in a state­ment that the flight “over­shot the runway in rainy con­di­tions and went down” the slope, break­ing into two pieces upon im­pact.

As the rain stopped Satur­day morn­ing, searchers re­cov­ered a flight data recorder as the Air­craft Ac­ci­dent In­ves­ti­ga­tion Bu­reau started work on the wreck­age. Air In­dia Ex­press said its teams also reached Cali­cut to sup­port and as­sist fam­i­lies of the vic­tims.

A sim­i­lar tragedy was nar­rowly avoided at the same air­port a year ago, when an Air In­dia Ex­press flight suf­fered a tail strike upon land­ing. None of the 180 pas­sen­gers of that flight was in­jured.

Ques­tions dog­ging in­ves­ti­ga­tors would in­clude not only the air­craft, weather and pi­lots but also the runway it­self. Its end safety area was ex­panded in 2018 to ac­com­mo­date wide-body air­craft.

The runway end safety area meets United Na­tions in­ter­na­tional civil avi­a­tion re­quire­ments, but the UN agency rec­om­mends a buf­fer that is 150 me­ters (492 feet) longer than that at Kozhikode air­port, ac­cord­ing to Harro Ran­ter, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Avi­a­tion Safety Net­work on­line data­base.

The Press Trust of In­dia news agency re­ported that the coun­try’s avi­a­tion reg­u­la­tor had sought an ex­pla­na­tion from the di­rec­tor of the Kozhikode air­port in 2019 on find­ing “var­i­ous crit­i­cal safety lapses,” which in­cluded cracks on the runway, water stag­na­tion and ex­ces­sive rub­ber de­posits.

Dubai-based avi­a­tion con­sul­tant Mark Martin said that while it was too early to de­ter­mine the cause of the crash, an­nual mon­soon con­di­tions ap­peared to be a fac­tor.

(AP)

The Air In­dia Ex­press flight that skid­ded off a runway while land­ing at the air­port in Kozhikode, Ker­ala state, In­dia on Aug 7.

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