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18 dead as plane skids off runway in India

An Air India Express plane with 190 people on board has crashed at an airport in the southern state of Kerala, killing at least 18 people, officials say.

The Boeing 737, en route from Dubai, skidded off the runway in the rain and broke in two after landing at Calicut airport, aviation officials said.

The flight was repatriating Indians stranded by the coronavirus crisis.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “pained by the plane accident”.

The rescue operation at the crash site has now been completed and survivors have been taken to hospitals in Calicut and Malappuram, according to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Dozens of people were injured, 156 of them seriously, officials say.

Air India Express said the two pilots were among the dead.

Flight IX 1134 was carrying 184 passengers, including 10 infants, and six crew.

The aircraft crashed at 19:40 local time (14:10 GMT) on Friday, as it attempted to land for a second time at Calicut International Airport. The first attempt was aborted by the pilots because of the heavy monsoon-season rainfall lashing Kerala.

Shri Pradhan, director-general of India’s National Disaster Response Force, said Calicut airport had a “table-top runway” and that the aircraft fell into “a ditch” after skidding across it.

He said the impact with the bottom of the ditch caused the fuselage to break in two, and that the front half was “very badly mangled and damaged”.

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