Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 27 October 2020

Families of passengers killed in Dubai-Kerala plane crash appeal to Indian government for help

Relatives tell of hardship and ask for assistance from authorities after the deadly crash

The widows and children of passengers who died during the Dubai-Kerala Air India Express plane crash two months ago are appealing for government support after losing the only earning member of their family.

Flight IX 1344 overshot the Kozhikode runway on August 7 and plunged into a gorge during bad weather killing 21 people including the pilot and co-pilot.

Two months after the tragedy, families want to draw attention to the plight of dependents struggling to survive on little to no income.

They have written to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan appealing for employment opportunities.

There were about 170 survivors and many continue to require medical attention for severe physical injuries and mental trauma.

“Some families have lost their only earning member, adding poverty to their already existing mental and emotional stress of losing a loved one,” the signed letter read.

The flight was part of the Vande Bharat or Salute India mission launched by the government to bring back citizens who lost their jobs and travellers stuck overseas for months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Everything is shattered. I am trying to grab courage

Sunitha Variyath

Sunitha Variyath, 36, who lost her husband Sudheer in the crash, urged the Indian government to take care of the families.

She told The National she “still did not have the courage to talk about it.”

“Many of us became widows and so many children lost their parents. The other people who survived are still struggling both physically and mentally,” said Ms Variyath, who is studying to qualify for government civil service examinations.

“We are not able to recover from the shock. My younger son still does not know his father is no more.

“Some of us really need secure jobs so we can take care of our family.”

Her 45-year-old husband was an accountant in Dubai, where he had worked since 2007.

Sudheer Variyath was the only earning member of his family in southern India's Kerala state. Courtesy: Air Live
Sudheer Variyath was the only earning member of his family in southern India's Kerala state. Courtesy: Air Live

He had planned a short break to enjoy a new home he had built for the family in India.

Mr Variyath regularly sent his salary home to care for their daughter and son, aged 10 and four. The money was also spent on his mother, who has cancer, and on the family of a widowed aunt.

His wife said he contracted Covid-19 months before but recovered in May.

He was rescued from the plane but died of injuries in hospital. His body tested positive for Covid-19 during a forensic exam.

Due to safety rules that limit numbers for the funeral of a Covid-19 patient, his body was not handed over to the family for cremation.

“We were not able to bring him home, not even one last time,” said Ms Variyath.

“No one in my family except me even saw him, not even his own mother. Everything is shattered. God didn't give us a chance.”

The government has previously provided financial aid to citizens during floods and other natural disasters. Ms Variyath is hoping their plea will be heard as employment opportunities would bring some relief to the families.

“I am trying to grab the courage to keep everything together. I am trying to be normal,” she said.

Rajeevan Parambil (second from right) with his family in India. The Dubai resident was returning home for his daughter's wedding when he was among 21 people killed in the Air India Express crash on August 7 in Kozhikode, Kerala. 
Rajeevan Parambil (second from right) with his family in India.

Families have also asked for speedy dispersal of compensation amounts from federal and state authorities.

A distraught Anusree Rajeev hoped her elder brother would get a government job after their father’s death.

The family had been excited about Rajeevan Parambil’s return a month before her planned September wedding.

The 60-year-old had messaged relatives saying he was looking forward to returning to prepare for the festivities.

Educating his children was important to Mr Parambil, who worked as a spray painter in an auto shop in Dubai’s Al Quoz area for 20 years.

“We are trying to manage but we really need help,” said Ms Rajeev, 26, who is studying for a master’s degree in computer applications.

“My father was so happy. He was continuously messaging me before he boarded the flight.”

Aysha Dua, 2, one of the victims of the Dubai-Kerala Air India Express crash on August 7 in southern India. Aysha is pictured with her father Murthasa Fasal and mother Sumayya Thasneem in Dubai. Her mother Sumayya survived the crash. Courtesy: Murthasa Fasal
Aysha Dua, 2, one of the victims of the Dubai-Kerala Air India Express crash. Courtesy: Murthasa Fasal

UAE residents have joined in the appeal to support bereaved families.

Murthasa Fasal's two-year-old daughter Aysha Dua died in the crash while his wife Sumayya Thasneem suffered multiple fractures.

She will start physiotherapy after she recovers from her surgery that required a steel rod to be inserted in her leg.

“It will take some months before she can walk,” he said.

“All our families have suffered loss. People have lost husbands, their wife or children. We have sent our petition hoping to bring back attention to families who have lost their only earning member. At least then these families can survive.”

Updated: October 8, 2020 09:08 PM

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