Rescuers shaken by ‘blood, death’ of In­dia jet crash

Kuwait Times - - Front Page -

KOZHIKODE, In­dia: In­dian au­thor­i­ties had prac­ticed for years for a jet over­shoot­ing the “ta­ble-top” run­way at Kozhikode air­port, but lo­cal res­i­dent Fazal Puthiyakat­h was not pre­pared for the “blood and death” of the real thing. The 32-year-old busi­ness­man and his neigh­bors were first on the scene af­ter an Air In­dia Ex­press plane crashed over the run­way down a 10-m bank and broke in two dur­ing a fierce storm late Fri­day, killing 18 peo­ple and in­jur­ing more than 120.

Puthiyakat­h and oth­ers rushed out af­ter hear­ing “a blast-like” roar. “All that we could hear were screams all around. Peo­ple were soaked in blood ev­ery­where, some had frac­tures, some were un­con­scious,” he told AFP. The im­pact was so bru­tal that the nose of the Boe­ing 737 fin­ished about 20 m from the back half of the jet. The two pi­lots were killed but rescuers said the death toll would have been much higher if the jet had caught fire.

Kozhikode air­port in south­ern In­dia’s Ker­ala state is con­sid­ered a po­ten­tial hazard be­cause it has a “ta­ble-top” run­way with a steep bank at ei­ther end. “I have seen the mock tri­als from a dis­tance -air­port au­thor­i­ties con­duct it with a crashed dummy air­craft,” said Puthiyakat­h. “But this was just some­thing else in re­al­ity. You re­al­ize that no mat­ter how pre­pared you are, its com­pletely dif­fer­ent on the ground when you ac­tu­ally have blood and death around.”

The spe­cial flight was bring­ing 190 In­di­ans stranded by the coro­n­avirus pan­demic in Gulf coun­tries back to In­dia. Many live in Ker­ala where the num­ber of virus cases is tak­ing off. “We didn’t bother about who had COVID or not. All that we had in mind was to save as many lives as pos­si­ble,” said Puthiyakat­h. De­spite the shock, he drove one man to a lo­cal hos­pi­tal in his car. “All I heard through­out the drive was him cry­ing about his wife and child. I can never for­get that. I haven’t checked the car but I am sure there are blood­stains on the back seat.”

Ju­naid Mukkood, 34, who also lives nearby, said he heard two big bangs. “Since it was rain­ing, I thought it was prob­a­bly light­ning,” he said. “The plane had skid­ded off the run­way, fallen and split in two. The cock­pit was com­pletely rammed into a wall. We saw the pi­lots but they were still strapped to their seats and there was no gap for us to res­cue them.”

Trac­tors and cranes had to move the de­bris to free the bod­ies of Deepak Vas­ant Sathe, a former In­dian Air Force test pi­lot, and Akhilesh Ku­mar. Mukkood said lo­cals vol­un­teered to help rescuers who were over­come by the size of the task. “I had a child in my arms. She had bits of the de­bris on her,” he added. “The rain and the dark­ness only made it worse for us to find peo­ple.” Of­fi­cials said four of the dead from In­dia’s worst air dis­as­ter in a decade were chil­dren. — AFP


KARIPUR, In­dia: Of­fi­cials in­spect the wreck­age of an Air In­dia Ex­press jet at Cali­cut In­ter­na­tional Air­port yes­ter­day.

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