More than 100 survivors are being treated in hospitals, a day after an Air India Express flight from Dubai crash landed at Kozhikode in Kerala.
Doctors battle to save the critically injured passengers who were rescued when Flight IX-1344 carrying 184 passengers including 10 infants, two pilots and four crew overshot the runway on Friday while attempting a second landing amid heavy rain.
Deepak Sathe, the pilot who was a former Air India Air Force officer and co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar succumbed to injuries before they reached the hospital.
A six-year-old girl and another passenger were also among the dead at Aster hospital.
It has been confirmed that at least 18 people have died in the accident.
Survivors are being treated for head injuries, fractures and burns, Dr Farhan Yasin, chief executive of Aster Mims told The National.
More than 100 patients are being treated in four private and government hospitals in Kozhikode city, also known as Calicut.
The relatives of a six-year-old girl who died at the Aster hospital were finally traced early Saturday by rescue and medical staff.
“All the patients have now been identified and relatives are here in the hospital. Surgeries are on today. Most of the cases are head injuries, burn cases, foot and hand fractures,” Dr Yasin said.
“We have opened up five operating theatres for surgeries. We are releasing information about the patients on our helplines so relatives can come to the hospitals to identify the patients."
Medics wearing protective equipment also checked survivors for the coronavirus.
“We have opened a separate area in the emergency to treat patients from the crash,” he said.
“We are also checking patients for Covid and taking all precautions. When there are mass casualties, we have to give these patients first preference and treating Covid becomes secondary now.”
The airline said investigating teams were on site to begin a probe into the cause of the crash.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with all the passengers and crew and their families at this time of grief,” the statement said.
Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s civil aviation minister, said a bigger tragedy was averted since there was no fire.
“Our task would have been much more difficult if the plane had caught fire,” he told Indian media.
“The weather condition was unfavourable due to the monsoon. It appears the pilot tried to stop on the runway of the tabletop airport but the accident occurred because of slippery conditions. It is best that the investigators are allowed to complete their work.”
There have been accidents involving Air India Express flights that have skidded off the runway.
More than 180 passengers were evacuated safely when a flight from Dubai veered off the runway in June last year in Mangalore in southern India.
The crash on Friday in Kozhikode comes 10 years after a similar fatal crash happened at Mangalore airport that killed 158 people.
There were only eight survivors in May 2010 when An Air India Express flight from Dubai overshot the runway and crash landed in a gorge.
Both airports in Mangalore and Kozikhode have tabletop runways that are located on a plateau adjacent to a valley or gorge.