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18 dead after Indian passenger aircraft crashes

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16 people have been severely injured, a senior government official said.

The special evacuation flight bringing people home to India who had been trapped abroad because of the coronavirus skidded off the runway and split in two while landing in heavy rain.

By Favas Jalla and Jose Devasia

Kozhikode, India – The death toll from an Indian passenger aircraft accident has risen to 18, while 16 people have been severely injured, a senior government official said on Saturday.

The Air India Express plane, which was repatriating Indians stranded in Dubai due to the coronavirus pandemic, overshot the runway of the Calicut International Airport in heavy rain near the southern city of Kozhikode on Friday. This was India’s worst passenger aircraft accident since 2010.

The flight was carrying 190 passengers and crew.

The plane’s pilot and the co-pilot were killed in the accident, K Gopalakrishnan, chief of the Malappuram district in the southern state of Kerala, told Reuters.

“All passengers have been admitted to various hospitals, and they are also being tested for Covid-19,” Gopalakrishnan said, adding autopsy of the bodies would be carried out according to the Covid-19 protocol.

The Boeing-737 the plane skidded off the table-top runway of Calicut, crashing nose-first into the ground. Such runways are located at an altitude and have steep drops at one or both ends.

In 2010, another Air India Express flight from Dubai overshot the table-top runway at Mangalore, a city in the south, and slid down a hill, killing 158 people

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri last night told national broadcaster DD News that only an investigation would reveal the cause of the crash.

Puri said authorities managed to rescue most of the passengers because the plane did not catch fire while descending the slope at the end of the runway.

India, which shut down all air travel in late March to try to contain the novel coronavirus, has restarted limited international air travel.

Air India Express AXB1344 was a government-operated repatriation flight for Indians previously unable to return home because of travel restrictions.