NEW DELHI

Fifteen people, including a pilot, were killed and over 100 were injured after an Air India Express passenger plane with 191 people onboard skidded off the runway in the southern Indian state of Kerala on Friday evening.

“15 people died in the incident which includes the pilot as well,“ Kerala police Chief Lokanath Behera told Anadolu Agency over the phone. “The rescue operation is over. “

He said the number of injured is not known exactly as they have been taken to various hospitals. “Most of them apparently are injured. I have been told that some of the injured are serious,” he said.

Officials said the incident took place at the Kozhikode International Airport amid the rainfall the state is witnessing.

Another police official in the area said the number of injured is more than 100. “They are receiving treatment at the hospitals,” he said.

Country’s aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that the plane broke into two pieces and the incident will be investigated.

“Deeply anguished & distressed at the air accident in Kozhikode. The @FlyWithIX flight number AXB-1344 on its way from Dubai to Kozhikode with 191 persons on board, overshot the runway in rainy conditions & went down 35 ft. into a slope before breaking up into two pieces,” he tweeted.

“We are in touch with local authorities. State police have reported 11 deaths. Relief teams from Air India & AAI are being immediately dispatched from Delhi & Mumbai. All efforts being made to help passengers. A formal enquiry will be conducted by AAIB(Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau).”

Talking to Anadolu Agency, P.G. Prageesh, the head of the Corporate Communications of Air India Express, said there was no fire at the time of the landing. The aircraft skidded on the runway and fell into the valley next to the airport.

“There were a total of 174 passengers, 10 infants, 2 pilots, and four cabin crews on the aircraft. The rescue operations are on and we have also established helpline numbers for Sharjah,” said Prageesh.

The Air India Express pilot Deepak Sathe, who died in the crash, was a former Indian Air Force test pilot.

His colleague and friend Manmohan Bahadur, the former IAF Air Vice Marshal and the current director-general of the Centre for Air Power Studies, confirmed in a tweet.

“This is sad. WingCo Sathe was a comrade in arms at ASTE (IAF’s flight testing establishment) with me. RIP Tester,” he wrote.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter: “Pained by the plane accident in Kozhikode. My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest. Spoke to Kerala CM @vijayanpinarayi Ji regarding the situation. Authorities are at the spot, providing all assistance to the affected.”

Official Twitter Page of Consulate General of India in Dubai said on Twitter: “Air India Express Flight No IX 1344 from Dubai to Calicut skidded off the runway.We pray for well being of passengers and crew and will keep you updated as and when we receive further updates.Our helplines 056 546 3903, 0543090572, 0543090572, 0543090575.”

* Cheena Kapoor contributed to this report from New Delhi

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