Kerala’s rain fury on Friday climaxed with a plane accident at Kozhikode’s Karippur airport when the Air India Express plane IX 1344 from Dubai slipped off the runway and fell a depth of 30 -50 feet from the table top airport. The plane was on a Vande Bharat mission.
On Friday night ANI reported that 14 people died in the incident while 123 were injured and 15 seriously injured in the Kozhikode plane crash incident at Karipur Airport. The deceased include pilot, Capt. DV Sathe and several passengers have been admitted to various hospitals in the city. Some of the dead passengers have been identified as Kozhikode residents.
State Health Minister KK Shailaja said that "14 dead in Air India Express flight crash landing incident at Kozhikode. Those injured rushed to Kozhikode Medical College & other nearby hospitals. Those admitted are having serious injuries."
Many of the admitted passengers, according to eyewitness accounts numbering about a hundred, were said to be in a serious condition. The plane had 184 passengers and a crew of six.
The trip had 189 passengers booked, but five of them did not board. The passengers included 10 children, below five years of age. The rescued included a child, who is completely safe, but has been separated from his parents as they have been admitted to one of the hospitals.
It was a disastrous day for the state as a landslide in the hilly Idukki district wiped off an entire settlement of tea estate workers belonging to the Tata Kannan Devan estate. More than 50 people are still missing, while 17 bodies have been recovered.
The plane caught fire as it slipped off the runway and split it into two when it fell to the ground below. The cockpit was damaged beyond recognition. It is believed that the pilot could not see the runway properly due to the heavy rain. The wings of the plane hit the airport boundary wall and broke.
Rescue operations were hampered by the heavy rain as ambulances from various hospitals in the city made a beeline to transport the injured. Luckily, the fire did not engulf the entire plane, probably due to the heavy rain.
Now, an urgent meeting called by Civil Aviation Ministry is underway at Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan. DGCA Director-General & officials of the ministry, Airport Authority of India and Air India Express are in the meeting.
Meanwhile, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan said, "Have instructed Police and Fire Force to take urgent action in the wake of the plane crash at the Kozhikode International airport (CCJ) in Karipur. Have also directed the officials to make necessary arrangements for rescue and medical support."
Vijayan also said that Minister A.C Moideen will lead the rescue efforts at the Kozhikode International Airport. Police and Fire Force personnel have been deployed at the crash site.
Vijayan also spoke to PM Modi who promised assistance to the state. "Spoke to Shri. Narendra Modi ji over phone. Have informed the Prime Minister about the arrangements made for rescue and medical support. The Prime Minister has promised the assistance of the Union Government."
PM Modi said said, "Pained by the plane accident in Kozhikode. My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest. Spoke to Kerala CM regarding the situation. Authorities are at the spot, providing all assistance to the affected."
Home Minister Amit Shah instructed NDRF to reach the site and assist with rescue operations. "Distressed to learn about the tragic accident of Air India Express aircraft in Kozhikode, Kerala.Have instructed NDRF to reach the site at the earliest and assist with the rescue operations, Shah said.
"We must remember that it is a tabletop runway at Kozhikode. There seems to have been injuries among all the passengers & some of them are unconscious. An NDRF team has been rushed to the spot & should be reaching any time there to join search &rescue operation," NDRF DG SN Pradhan.
Meanwhile, Air India Express said that no fire was reported at time of landing. "As per initial reports, rescue ops on & passengers being taken to hospital for medical care."
The accident was very similar to the one that occurred at another table top airport at Mangalore ten years ago, when an Air India Express plane from Dubai hit a mount and caught fire, killing 158 passengers.