160 killed in India crash

7 survive after flight from Dubai overshoots runway at landing.

May 22, 2010 07:02
1 minute read.
Rescue workers at the site of the crash

india plane crash 311. (photo credit: AP)

NEW DELHI — An Air India Express plane trying to land in the rain at a tricky hilltop airport in southern India overshot the runway, crashed and burst into flames at dawn Saturday, killing 159 people, officials said. There were seven survivors.

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Dense black smoke billowed from the Boeing 737-800 aircraft surrounded by flames just outside Mangalore's Bajpe airport in a hilly area with thick grass and trees.

Rescue workers pulled out scores of burned bodies from the blackened tangle of aircraft cables, twisted metal, charred trees and mud at the crash site. Many of the dead were still strapped into their seats, their bodies burned beyond recognition.

Relatives of the victims, who had come to the airport to meet them, were seen weeping near the wreckage.

"The plane shook with vibrations and split into two," a survivor named Pradeep told CNN-IBN television. He said the plane's initial touchdown appeared smooth at first, but trouble started about 15 seconds later.

Pradeep, who uses only one name, jumped out of the aircraft with four others into a pit, he said.

The plane had a small fire at first, but then a large explosion set off a bigger blaze, said Pradeep, who injured his hand and suffered burns to his feet.

The plane was carrying 160 passengers — all Indian — and six crew members, Air official Anup Srivastava said.

By Saturday afternoon, rescuers had pulled 116 bodies from the wreckage, Srivastava said. Seven survivors had been rescued and were being treated in local hospitals, the airline said.

The crash was the deadliest in since the November 1996 midair collision between a Saudi airliner and a Kazakh cargo plane near that killed 349 people.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed condolences and promised compensation for the families of the victims. Boeing said in a statement it was sending a team to provide technical aid to the government's crash investigation.

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