By Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Friday he was “pained” after a special flight carrying nearly 200 coronavirus evacuees from abroad skidded offa runway in southern Kerala stare killing at least 16 passengers and injuring 123 more.
The two-year-old Boeing 737-800 split into two parts and fell into a valley, said the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
Abdul Karim, a senior Kerala state police officer, added that the dead included one of the pilots of the Air India Express flight. He said at least 15 of the injured were in critical condition, and that rescue operations were over.
The plane, carrying 184 passengers, including ten infants, two pilots, and four cabin-crew members flew from Dubai to Kozhikode, also called Calicut, in Kerala.
A similar tragedy to Friday’s 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 were injured.
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.
The airport’s runway end safety area was reportedly expanded in 2018 to accommodate wide-body aircraft.
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.
An inquiry will be conducted by the ministry’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau, he said.
Air India Express is a subsidiary of Air India.
The worst air disaster in India was on November 12, 1996, when a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight collided midair with a Kazakhastan Airlines Flight near Charki Dadri in Haryana state, killing all 349 onboard the two planes.
Weather authorities had issued an alert, warning that extremely heavy rainfall was likely in the Kozhikode area on Friday.
Earlier in the day, a landslide in a different part of Kerala killed 15 people, also the result of torrential rain.
It comes at a time when the impoverished nation of more than 1.3 billion people is also struggling with the impact and the related measures of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Friday, authorities said the nation was crossing 2 million coronavirus cases and more than 41,000 related deaths. Community health volunteers went on strike complaining they were ill-equipped to respond to the wave of infection in rural areas.
Millions are also unemployed because of coronavirus restrictions.
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