Indian air crash kills at least 158 people

22.5.2010   (FT)

By Joe Leahy in Mumbai

An Air India plane crashed in the southern city of Mangalore early Saturday killing
at least 158 people in the country’s first major plane crash in nearly a decade.

The Boeing 737-800 plane, budget flight IX-812 from Dubai to Mangalore, overshot
its landing, crashing into a patch of jungle beyond the runway.

Media reports said there were eight survivors from the flight, which reports
said was carrying 160 passengers and six crew members.

"The accident occurred after the aircraft landed at Mangalore airport and overshot
the runway," Air India said.

The crash will raise questions over air safety in India, one of the world’s fastest
growing aviation markets whose airports are struggling to keep up with a boom
in demand.

European aircraft builder Airbus has predicted India will be the fastest growing
air travel market for the next 10 years.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh postponed an event at his residence to celebrate
the first anniversary of his second term in office "as a mark of respect to those
who perished in this tragic incident".

He authorised Rs200,000 in compensation for the dead and Rs50,000 for the injured.

"At least 160 passengers have died in the crash," VS Acharya, home minister of
the southern state of Karnataka, told reporters. "At least five to six people
have been taken to hospital, their condition is not known."

Indian television interviewed survivors, who said the plane crashed into the
trees beyond the airport and broke up near a ravine.

A handful of passengers were able to scramble to safety but no other survivors
are expected.

"The plane had broken into two. I jumped out of the plane after it crashed. I
saw two other people also come out," Abdullah, a survivor from the plane, told
local channel TV9 from hospital.

"There was tyre-burst kind of noise. I tried to get out of the front but saw
that there was a big fire. So I went back again and jumped out from there."

Mangalore is a coastal city, around 320 kilometres (200 miles) west of the information
technology capital of Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley.

In India’s last major plane crash, 61 people were killed when a Boeing 737 aircraft
belonging to the domestic airline, Alliance Air, crashed into a residential area
near the airport in the eastern Indian city of Patna in July 2000.

India’s worst aviation accident occurred in 1996 when two passenger planes collided
in mid-air near New Delhi with the loss of all 349 on board both flights.


see also


Guardian   22.5.2010

Air India plane crash kills scores

by David Batty and agencies

Up to 158 people were killed today when a plane overshot an airport runway and
plunged into a gorge in southern

All but a few of the 166 people on board the Air India airliner died when it
appeared to skid off the hilltop runway at Bajpe airport in Mangalore in heavy

Around eight people survived the crash, which happened at 6.30am, and were being
treated in nearby hospitals, according to local officials.

One of the survivors, known only as Pradeep, said the front tyre of the aircraft
burst after the plane had landed.

“We had no hope to survive, but we survived,” he told CNN-IBN television. “The
plane broke into two and we jumped off the plane. As soon as the plane landed,
within seconds this happened.”

The Indian technician, returning from working in Dubai, said he and four others
managed to jump from the plane into a pit and were helped by villagers who heard
the crash.

The fire on the plane was small at first, but an explosion sparked a bigger blaze,
said Pradeep, who injured his hand and suffered burns to his feet.

“While landing at the airport, the plane deviated and hit something,” Krishna,
another survivor, told Reuters. “It caught fire and we fell out.”

The Boeing 737-800, carrying 160 passengers and six crew members, crashed during
heavy rains that also hampered the rescue effort. It is believed that cloudy conditions
and reduced visibility may have contributed to the incident.

The crash is believed to be the worst in India since the November 1996 mid-air
collision between a Saudi airliner and a Kazakh cargo plane near New Delhi that
killed 349 people.

Bajpe airport, which has been shut following the crash, is on a plateau surrounded
by hills, making it difficult for firefighters to reach the scene.

The “table-top” runway ends in a valley, which means that if a plane overshoots
it is likely to result in a major incident, according to aviation experts.

Rescue workers had pulled around 80 bodies from the charred wreckage, Air India
official Jitender Bhargava said.

Officials believed the chances of finding any more survivors were bleak, but
efforts to recover and identify the bodies were expected to continue into the

C Basavanna, a regional fire officer, said: “We arrived here at 7am after receiving
an emergency call. Only 30% of the rescue work has been done so far and it may
carry on beyond 7pm.”

Yogish Bhat, a member of the legislative assembly who rushed to the scene, said:
“Many relatives are coming to the spot. But the bodies are so charred, it is impossible
to identify them here. So we are sending them to hospitals.”

Residents who helped with the rescue efforts described their shock at seeing
the crash site.

Mohammad Haris, 42, who lives near the airport, said: “I heard a loud bang early
in the morning. Initially I couldn’t understand what happened, but then I saw
smoke coming out from the valley near the airport.

“Along with a few other neighbours, I rushed to the spot. It was rather difficult
to reach the site because of the dense vegetation. We began pulling bodies from
the wreckage and one of us informed the local authorities. I have never seen anything
like this before. I am shocked.”

The prime minister, Manmohan Singh, expressed his condolences and promised compensation
for the families of the victims.

“This is a major calamity,” the home minister for the state of Karnataka, VS
Acharya, told CNN-IBN.

The Air India director, Anup Srivastava, said in a statement: “Air India Express
regrets to announce that a B737-800 aircraft operating as flight IX-812 from Dubai
to Mangalore was involved in an accident early this morning.

“The accident occurred after the aircraft landed at Mangalore airport and overshot
the runway. We are confirming the number of casualties. We have opened helplines
and are making arrangements for rescue.”


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