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159 Dead In Air India Plane Crash


An Air India passenger plane has crashed while trying to land in southern India, killing about 159 people on board. It is the worst air accident in India in over a decade.

The plane crashed as it overshot the runway after landing in the southern Indian city of Mangalore on a flight from Dubai early Saturday.

Television images showed flames billowing from the aircraft, which partially broke up after skidding off the runway. The airport is surrounded by hilly terrain. Rescue workers and villagers scrambled to reach the burned out wreckage.

There were only a handful of lucky survivors, and many sustained burn injuries. Some survivors said they heard a loud explosion after the plane touched down.

One survivor told television reporters he managed to jump out of the aircraft which he says caught fire within seconds of landing.

He says the plane veered off towards some trees, and then the cabin was filled with smoke. He says he jumped out of the plane.

There were 166 people on board including six crew members, and several children. Almost all the passengers were Indians. Many Indians from southern states work in Dubai.

Officials say the crash was an accident. They say all appeared well until the landing.

"As per our information available, there was no distress signal from the pilot, that means between pilot and air traffic communication, there was no indication of any problem reported by him," said V.P. Agarwal, chairman of Air India Express, the low budget arm of national carrier Air India that was operating the flight.

Air India official Anup Srivastasva says the main focus is on rescue operations.

"Air India is also opening helplines, contacting relatives and making arrangements of all possible rescue. Teams have been arranged," said Srivastasva.

The plane crash is the first major air accident in India in a decade. In 2000 an Alliance Air Boeing crashed into a residential area in the eastern city of Patna, killing at least 50 people. In 1996 a mid air collision between two aircraft near New Delhi killed more than 300 people.

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