At least 18 people dead and 123 injured after Air India Express plane skids off runway

The plane split in two when it crash landed in Kozhikode. Credit: AP

At least 18 people are dead and 123 injured after an Air India Express plane skidded off a runway in southern India, police say.

The Dubai to Kozhikode flight carrying nearly 200 people split in two after it overshot the runway in heavy rain at Karipur Airport in Kerala on Friday afternoon.

The front of the Boeing 737, including the cockpit area, was badly damaged. One of the pilots is believed to be among the dead.

Abdul Karim, a police officer, said at least 15 of the injured were in a critical condition.

India's NDTV news channel said 30 to 40 people were taken to hospital.

Emergency services at the scene.

It was a repatriation flight carrying Indian citizens back to the country following the lockdown, officials said.

Regular commercial flights have been halted in India because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Rajiv Jain, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Ministry, said no fire was reported on the Boeing 737 aircraft after it landed and broke into two pieces.

Mr Jain said there were 174 adult passengers, 10 infants, two pilots and four cabin crew on board the aircraft.

Dozens of people have been taken to hospital.

Amitabh Kant, who heads the government’s planning commission, said the runway is on a hilltop with deep gorges on either side, making it difficult to land.

“The incident happened because of heavy rains and poor visibility. This is truly devastating,” he told NDTV.

In a statement, Air India Express said: "The Air India flight (IX-1344) from Dubai carrying 174 passengers skidded during landing at Karipur Airport in Kozhikode (Kerala) today. There were six crew members onboard, including two pilots." Amit Shah, India's Minister for Home Affairs, said he was "distressed" to learn about the crash.

At least 24 ambulances and fire engines attended the scene. The worst air disaster in India was on Nov. 12, 1996, when a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight collided midair with a Kazakhastan Airlines Flight near Charki Dadri in Haryana state, killing all 349 on board the two planes.