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As many as 158 persons were feared dead when an Air India Express flight from Dubai with 166 people on board crashed and caught fire on Saturday as it overshot the newly-built runway while landing at the Mangalore airport. There were eight survivors who are being treated in various hospitals in the city.
"According to reports, most people in the plane are not alive. A few people have been shifted to hospital," Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa told reporters in Bangalore shortly after one of the worst air crashes in India. The Flight IX-892, operated by a Boeing 737-800, crashed around 6.30 am on Saturday morning.
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It was a miraculous escape for eight passengers onboard the ill-fated Air India flight While some of the survivors managed to jump out of the Boeing 737-800 and reach a nearby road, others jumped into a pit to evade the massive fire engulfing the aircraft.
Some of them were helped by people, including auto-rickshaw drivers and bikers to reach hospital. "I can't believe I survived the crash," said Pradeep reliving the moments when the plane hit the ground after it overshot the runway.
"There were vibrations before the plane crashed... as soon as it hit the ground, I managed to get out and jump into a pit. There was smoke all over as the plane caught fire. After ten minutes, there was an explosion," he said.
According to most of the survivors, the fuselage of the aircraft had split into two. Abdul Puthur, another survivor, said he, along with two others, managed to get out of the mangled remains of the aircraft from an opening on the left side. "It all happened within a few seconds," he said.
Another passenger Umar Farooq claimed the plane lost control while landing due to a tyre burst. "The plane overshot the runway only to stop inside a forest area...it burst into flames," he said soon after it hit the ground.
The scene at the air crash site in Managlore resembled a war zone on Saturday morning with a large number of rescue workers and locals trying hard to bring the flames in control and save the lives of those injured.
The entire area around Kenjar village near the crash site and the airport has been cordoned off.
An eyewitness said the bodies of passengers were strewn everywhere near Kenjar Gudda, a hillock.
The locality reverberated with sirens of ambulances and fire tenders as rescue workers pulled out charred bodies and badly injured victims, including children and women.
A senior official said the aircraft broke into pieces. "The location of crashed aircraft was not easily accessible," he said.
About 150 Central Industrial Security Force personnel, airport officials and fire service personnel along with civilians could be seen desperately searching for survivors down the hillock from where the aircraft fell.
Amidst all the gloom, there was a glimmer of hope as a fireman was seen taking a child in his arms and climbing the slope to rush to the ambulance. Firemen were immediately pressed into action as soon as the aircraft crashed.
But thick smoke made the rescue efforts difficult for them. Even as time passed by, a fear of huge loss of lives clearly could be seen lurking among the rescue workers and locals present at the crash site.
All that was visible amidst trees and shrubs was the white foam covering remains of the horrific crash. In times of such crash, instead of water, the firemen use Dicalcium Phosphate Powder and foam to control it.
Sumit Ameen, an eyewitness said, rains in the morning created problems for the rescue workers.
"There were rains in the morning in this forest area and it affected the rescue operations," he said. A large number of locals had gathered at the spot. Chandrasekar, another local, said they could not rescue many passengers as by the time they reached the spot, many were dead.
"We saw some people managing to come out of the mangled remains. We rushed them to hospitals," he said. At Mangalore hospitals, doctors and nurses were busy attending the victims as ambulances kept rushing in with passengers of the ill-fated flight.