NEW DELHI — An Indian jetliner trying to land in a torrential downpour skidded off the runway, crashed into a wall, tumbled into a nearby valley and split in half, killing at least 10 people and injuring scores.
The Air India Express flight was a special flight full of more than 180 returning from Dubai to Kozhikode, a city in southern India and
Indian media showed injured passengers lying in the hallways of a hospital. According to news reports, a pilot and two passengers died, and 30 to 40 passengers were hospitalized with injuries.
It has been raining heavily in that area for the past week and aviation experts said it appeared that the plane slid off the runway after having landed.
Indian media showed images of the jetliner’s fuselage cracked in half but there appeared to be no fire. Rescue crews were dousing the plane with water as rain continued to pelt down.
“There was not much loss of life,” M.B. Rajesh, a former member of Parliament from Kerala, told the NDTV news channel.
“Considering the severity of the accident, the loss of life was limited,” he added. “That is a relief.”
He said that all passengers had been evacuated by 9:15 p.m.
Officials said the heavy rains were likely a prime factor in the crash of the plane, a Boeing 737. Flight radar suggested it may have circled the airport before trying to land.
“There is no doubt that extreme weather conditions contributed to this,” said Shashi Tharoor, a prominent member of Parliament from Kerala. “During our monsoons, things can be very, very difficult,” he said.
The runway at the airport abuts the edge of a valley, where the plane ended up.
“The valley is about 50 feet deep and it’s no surprise that the plane, after skidding, broke in two,” Mr. Tharoor added. “Imagine people anxious to return to their homeland from Dubai. And now for this to happen, it’s obviously shaken every soul in Kerala to the core.”
The heavy rains in Kerala have been especially treacherous. At least 15 people were killed earlier on Friday by a massive landslide that sent a hillside of rock and sludge crashing into a tea plantation. The India Meteorological Department had declared a red alert in three districts, including the area of the plane accident.
A large number of Haj flights to Saudi Arabia use the airport every year and it supports a considerable number of international flights, particularly to the Gulf countries. This year, though, Saudi Arabia has strictly limited attendance to the gathering because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The airport has more international flights than domestic. It has a long runway,” Mr. Tharoor said.
In 2010, an Air India flight from Dubai carrying 166 people crashed into a heavily wooded valley moments after landing at an airport in southern India, killing 158 people. The plane in that crash was also a Boeing 737.