Mangalore: An Air India Express passenger plane from Dubai crashed outside an airport in Mangalore on Saturday, killing at least 158 people when it burst into flames after overshooting the runway and ploughing into a forest.
There were eight survivors after the Boeing 737-800, which had come from Dubai with 166 people on board including crew, appeared to skid off the runway in rain at Mangalore airport in Karnataka state, Air India director Anup Srivastava said.
Mint’s P.R. Sanjai talks about the implications of the Air India plane crash in Mangalore and speculation into its causes
At least 146 bodies had been recovered, said M Nambiar, a top official in the civil aviation ministry.
(Courtesy: The Hindu)
“It all happened in a sudden. The pilot said we are landing and in no moment we heard a loud thud. Soon, there were flames. We jumped out from the back entrance,” Abdul Puttur, a survivour , said.
Helpline numbers for information on crash:
Mangalore - 0824-222-0422, 0824-222-0424
Delhi - 011-2565-6196, 011-2560-3101
Onlookers and firefighters stand at the site of the crashed Air India Express passenger plane in Mangalore on May 22. Reuters Photo
“We had no hope to survive, but we survived,” Pradeep, a survivor who is an Indian technician working in Dubai, told local television.
“The plane broke into two and we jumped off the plane. As soon as the plane landed, within seconds this happened.”
Local television showed a fireman carrying what seemed to be the remains of a child from the smoking wreckage. Charred bodies lay in the forested terrain.
All the passengers were Indian nationals, an Air India official in Dubai said.
Many were likely Indian migrant workers in Dubai. The pilot was Serbian and said to be very experienced.
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First indications are that the crash was an accident, officials say.
Click here to watch BBC footage of air crash site.
Air India Express is the budget arm of the loss-ridden state-run carrier Air India, which has been fending off growing competition from private airlines.
The flight’s black box has been recovered, the United Arab Emirates state news agency WAM said. But Air India official Nambiar said the search for the flight data recorder was still going on.
The crash appeared to be an accident, Indian officials said. One TV report said the plane hit a radar pole on landing.
“There was no distress indication from the pilot. That means between the pilot and the airport communication there was no indication of any problem,” V P Agarwal, director of Airports Authority of India, told local television.
Indian officials said the plane crashed around 6 a.m. TV images showed it struck a forested area, and flames were blazing from the wreckage as rescue workers fought to bring the fire under control.
“While landing at the airport, the plane deviated and hit something,” said Krishna, another survivor. “It caught fire and we fell out. We looked up and saw some opening and came out through that route.”
It was India’s first major crash in a decade, which has seen a boom in private carriers amid growing demand from India’s middle class.
A series of near misses at major airports, including Delhi and Mumbai, have sparked debate about how India’s creaking infrastructure was failing to keep pace with an economic boom.
Union law minister Veerappa Moily told CNN-IBN TV that he had opened a new runway at Mangalore airport just 10 days ago. The ill-fated Air India airliner was two years old.
Boeing said in a statement it was sending a team to provide technical assistance to the crash investigation.
The last major crash in India was in July 2000 when an Alliance Air Boeing 737-200 crashed into a residential area during a second landing attempt in the eastern city of Patna, killing at least 50 people.
With growing competition from private carriers, the Indian government agreed to inject $1.1 billion into Air India if the ailing state-run carrier came up with the same amount in cost cuts and extra revenue.
The airline lost $875 million in the fiscal year ended March 2009.
Hundreds of Air India pilots went on strike in September 2009 to protest at management plans to cut pay incentives. The strike was called off when aviation minister Praful Patel said the grievances would be dealt with.
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