Nearly 160 people were killed when an Air India Express passenger plane crashed as it was landing at an airport in the southern Indian city of Mangalore on early Saturday, officials said.
A total of 160 passengers, including 4 infants, and 6 crew members were on board the Boeing 737-800 when it crashed close to Mangalore International Airport, in the country’s Karnataka state. Flight 812 had taken off from Dubai International Airport about 3 hours before it crashed in Mangalore at 6:30 a.m. local time.
Air India Express, a low-cost subsidiary of Air India, confirmed 158 people had been killed, but said 8 others survived and were transported to a local hospital. They are not believed to have sustained life-threatening injuries.
Most of the aircraft was destroyed in the crash, and footage from Suvarna News showed what appeared to be several severely burnt bodies. Firefighters quickly extinguished several small fires at the scene.
Air India director Anup Srivastava said the plane touched down briefly and crashed down a hill after it overshot the runway. One of the survivors told CNN-IBN that he noticed a left door was open and jumped off the plane as it overshot the runway, possibly before it crashed down the hill.
“The accident occurred after the aircraft landed at Mangalore airport and overshot the runway,” a written statement from Air India Express said. “Air India is currently confirming the identities of the casualties.”
The airliner and officials did not immediately say what may have caused the crash, but poor weather conditions may have contributed to the crash.
Air India has opened four helpline numbers for relatives and friends of the victims: 011-2565-6196, 011-2560-3101, 0824-2220422 and 0824-2220424.
Boeing said it would send a team to provide technical assistance to the investigation at the invitation of the Indian authorities. “Boeing wishes to express its profound condolences to the friends and family of those lost on Air India Express [Flight] IX-, as well as its wish for the recovery of those injured,” said Jim Proulx, a spokesman for the company.
A spokesman for the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said it would also send three investigators to assist Indian authorities. “We will be sending a team of investigators, a total of three, along with representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing, and GE,” the spokesman said.
The British Foreign Office said it was not aware of any British nationals on board the flight, but said it was investigating media reports that the pilot of the aircraft may have been a British citizen of Serbian origin.
“Our thoughts and condolences are with the victims, their families and all others affected by the tragic plane crash in Mangalore,” said UK Foreign Secretary William Hague. “We wish those who have been injured a full and quick recovery.”
European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek also offered his condolences, and said he was ‘touched’ to hear there were survivors from the crash. “I have also been informed that, against the odds, there are eight survivors,” Buzek said. “I’m touched their lives have been saved, it’s like receiving a second chance.”
Mangalore airport is about 30.5 kilometers (19 miles) from Mangalore city.
Saturday’s plane crash is believed to be the deadliest in India since November 12, 1996 when Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 763 collided in mid-air with Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907 over the village of Charki Dadri. A total of 349 people on board were killed.