NEW DELHI: At least 17 people were killed on Friday when a passenger jet overshot and skidded off the runway as it landed in southern India, breaking into two pieces, officials said.

Dozens of people were injured, 15 of them seriously, after the Air India Express Boeing 737 originating from Dubai touched down in Kozhikode in heavy rain.

The airline said more than 190 passengers and crew were on board the plane that, according to the aviation ministry, plunged 10 metres down a slope off the end of the raised so-called table-top runway.

Television footage showed the fuselage of the jet ripped apart and surrounded by emergency personnel working in the dark, spraying the wreckage with water although there was no sign of a fire.

Sakeen K., the district medical officer in the nearby city of Malappuram, said that 17 people had died. “We are still ascertaining the toll,” she said.

Imran expresses grief over the incident

Kozhikode official Seeram Sambasiva said that the two pilots were among the dead.

Senior local policeman Abdul Karim said that another 15 passengers “have critical injuries. It is still a developing situation.”

“We have at least 89 people, many of them with serious injuries, admitted to different Kozhikode hospitals. The ambulances are still coming in,” said Sujith Das, another senior police official.

“We have been told that all those who have survived the crash also have some form of injuries.”

Aviation regulator DGCA said the plane skidded off the end of the runway and “fell down in the valley and broke down in two pieces”.

Four people were still stuck inside the plane, media reports said.

One television channel reported there had been a problem with the jet’s landing gear.

Air India Express said in a statement that there was “no fire reported at the time of landing”. It said there were 174 passengers, 10 infants, two pilots and five cabin crew on board the aircraft.

The plane was one of dozens in recent weeks to repatriate some of the thousands of Indians left stranded abroad by the coronavirus pandemic, many of them in Gulf countries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences. “My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest... Authorities are at the spot, providing all assistance to the affected,” he said.

For his part, Prime Minister Imran Khan also expressed sorrow over the incident.

In a late-night tweet, Mr Khan said: “Saddened to learn of the Air India plane crash in Kerala state leading to loss of innocent lives. May Allah give strength to the bereaved families in their difficult hour.”

The last major plane crash in India was in 2010 when an Air India Express Boeing 737-800 from Dubai to Mangalore overshot the runway and burst into flames.

Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2020