A special flight carrying evacuees to India who had been stranded abroad because of the coronavirus skidded off a runway and split in two while landing Friday in heavy rain in the southern state of Kerala, killing at least 16 passengers and injuring 123 more, police said. Abdul Karim, a senior Kerala state police officer, said the dead included one of the pilots of the Air India Express flight, per the AP
. He said at least 15 of the injured were in critical condition, and that rescue operations were over. The 2-year-old Boeing 737-800 flew from Dubai to Kozhikode, also called Calicut, in Kerala, India’s southernmost state, the airline said.
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 9,350-foot runway is on a flat hilltop with deep gorges on either side ending in a 112-foot drop. 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.
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