'Many dead' as Air India plane overshoots runway
Published 22/05/2010 | 03:42
Around 160 people are feared dead in an Air India plane crash at an airport in Mangalore, southern India.
Home minister of the state of Karnataka Dr V S Acharya said there may be a few survivors after a Boeing 737 from Dubai overshot the runway at Mangalore and crashed.
The plane was carrying 169 people on board when it crashed at 6.30am local time.
Heavy rains lashing the coastal city were making rescue efforts difficult and it is believed the cloudy conditions and reduced visibility may have contributed to the incident.
Television reports said India's Civil Aviation minister Dr Praful Patel was on his way to the city from New Delhi.
Dr Acharya said: "There were a total of 169 people on board and just a handful have survived. Rescue teams are at the site and fire-fighters are trying to extinguish the flames from the aircraft."
He told a news channel that around six to seven people were taken to a nearby hospital.
Inspector General of Police in Mangalore Gopal Hosur said: "All agencies are working together to help out. We are trying the best we can."
The Foreign Office said it was urgently investigating whether there were any Britons on board.
Deputy Commissioner of Mangalore Prabhakar Sharma told the Press Association: "Rescue operations are in full swing at the site and all government agencies are attending the situation.
"There are six people who have survived and they are currently in different hospitals. I have been told they are out of danger."
Television images showed black smoke billowing from the Boeing 737-800 aircraft which crashed in hilly terrain with dense vegetation.
Firefighters sprayed foam on the plane as rescue workers battled to reach the site.
One firefighter ran up a hill with a child in his arms.
India's prime minister Manmohan Singh expressed his condolences and promised compensation for the families of the victims.
The airport's location, on a plateau surrounded by hills, made it difficult for the firefighters to reach the scene, officials said.
Aviation experts said the airport's "tabletop" runway, which ends in a valley, makes a bad crash inevitable if a plane overshoots it.
The airport is about 19 miles outside Mangalore city.
The crash could be the deadliest in India since the November 1996 midair collision between a Saudi airliner and a Kazakh cargo plane near New Delhi that killed 349 people.