An Air India Express plane crashed in the South Indian state of Kerala after skidding off the runway and breaking into two while landing at Kozhikode Calicut International Airport.
At least 18 people died in the crash, including both pilots, with up to 30 others receiving treatment for serious injuries, according to CV Anand, Central Industrial Security Force’s Inspector General. The flight’s data recorder has been recovered from the wreckage, Anand said.
The flight, number IX-1344, overshot the runway in rainy conditions, “went down 35-feet into a slope before breaking up into two pieces,” Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told CNN.
The flight from Dubai to Kozhikode, also known as Calicut, had 190 people on board, according to Air India Express.
“There are 174 passengers, 10 infants, 2 pilots, 4 cabin crew on board the aircraft,” the statement said, adding that “no fire reported at the time of landing.” The airline added that the flight’s four crew members were “confirmed safe.”
Images from the scene showed a broken fuselage with pieces of the plane scattered across what appears to be a field, as well as people searching through the debris.
Puri told CNN that amid bad weather conditions the pilot had “tried to land earlier, but then did a turnaround.”
“The aircraft would not be brought to a halt by the end of the runway, and there’s a 35-foot drop in a gorge,” he said, adding that the plane — fortunately — did not catch fire.
A formal investigation into the crash will be conducted by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB), Puri told CNN. He later wrote on Twitter that “two investigation teams of professionals” from Air India, Airports Authority of India and AAIB will “leave for Kozhikode” early on Saturday.
According to Anand, the evacuation of the plane ended after the “last female passenger was pulled out of the wreckage at 23.10 p.m. IST,” he told CNN.
The plane was one of the repatriation flights operated by the Indian government to bring back nationals stranded abroad due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, information on the Air India website shows.
Friday’s crash comes more than a decade after an Air India plane overshot a runway in the southern Indian city of Mangalore, crashed into a ravine and burst into flames — killing 158 people.
According to Reuters, both Mangalore International Airport — site of the 2010 crash — and Kozhikode Calicut International Airport have tabletop runways, which it describes as having a steep drop on one or both ends of the runway.
Kerala’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan called on police and fire officials “to take urgent action” following news of the crash. “Have also directed the officials to make necessary arrangements for rescue and medical support,” Vijayan said in a tweet.
Both India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar sent their condolences to the families of the victims on Twitter.
“Pained by the plane accident in Kozhikode. My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest,” Modi wrote on Twitter.
Air India Express is a wholly owned subsidiary of Air India, according to its website. It operates 25 Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft.