An Air India passenger plane has crashed while trying to land in southern India, killing at least 158 people on board, in the worst air accident in India in a decade.

The Boeing 737 crashed as it overshot the runway after landing in the southern Indian city of Mangalore early Saturday. Television images showed flames billowing from the aircraft.

Rescue workers and villagers close to the site pulled eight survivors from the wreckage. They included children. There were 166 people on board including six crew members on a flight from Dubai.

Air India official Anup Srivastasva says the crash was an accident. He says the main focus is on rescue operations, while Air India personnel are contacting relatives.

Survivors told reporters they heard a loud explosion before the plane crashed.  

The plane crash is the first major crash in India in a decade. Air India Express is the low budget arm of national carrier Air India.