The crucial flight data recorder of the Air India Express flight AXB 1344 that crashed after overshooting the runway of Calicut International Airport at Karipur on Friday evening was recovered as investigations into the accident began.
The toll from the mishap rose to 18 on Saturday, with one more passenger succumbing to injuries, officials said. Of the 149 people injured, 23 are in critical condition, while another 23 have been discharged after initial medical assistance.
Normal operations resumed at Karipur airport a day after the crash amid safety concerns, even as Union Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri and Union Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan, who visited the site, dismissed the fears. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had given clearance to the airport after inspecting all aspects and satisfying the requirements, they said.
₹20 lakh for kin
The Centre and the Kerala government have announced separate interim relief of ₹10 lakh each to the families of those killed in the crash.
Normal operations resumed at the airport, despite initial concerns about the safety at the two runways. “There is no debris on runway so there is no need to cancel operations,” said a senior official.
DGCA chief Arun Kumar told The Hindu that several recommendations in 2011 and 2019 to improve safety standards at the airport were complied with, though some suggestions such as extending the length of the runway could not be implemented due to lack of land availability. But he said that the runway, at 8,000 feet, was sufficiently long for narrow body and wide body aircraft operations.
Top officials visit site
Mr. Puri, who visited the site along with top officials of Air India and Airport Authority of India, said the investigation would reveal the exact reason for the crash.
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Appealing to the media not to speculate on the causes of the accident, Mr. Puri said only the investigation report could authoritatively fix the reason for the crash. “I, too, have been asking all kinds of questions. But let’s get the facts right before jumping into any speculations,” he said.
Mr. Puri said all concerns raised about safety at the airport had been addressed. “I have been Civil Aviation Minister since June 2019. We have addressed all concerns. We would not have given clearance to the airport without addressing the issues.”
“I have been Civil Aviation Minister since June 2019. We have addressed all concerns. We would not have given clearance to the airport without addressing the issues,” he said.
He said the Mangaluru crash in 2010 too had given them many lessons. “We learned lessons from Mangaluru. And we continue to learn,” he said.
“Tabletop runways do pose a challenge. But that challenge is factored in when you give clearance for commanders with a certain amount of experience,” Mr. Puri said.
The Minister praised the captain of the ill-fated flight, Deepak Vasanth Sathe, for his services, saying, “He was a decorated pilot.”
Mr. Muraleedharan, who accompanied Mr. Puri, dismissed reports that the runway had been dangerous. Reiterating that permission had been granted for large aircraft to operate after detailed examinations and clearance by the DGCA, he said he had not heard or seen any official report describing the airport as “unsafe.”
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Mr. Puri announced an interim relief of ₹10 lakh to the kin of the dead, ₹ 2 lakh to the seriously injured and ₹50,000 to those with minor injuries. “This is only an interim relief from Air India,” he said.
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, too, visited Karipur along with several other members of the State Cabinet. Announcing a relief of ₹10 lakh to the family of the victims, Mr Vijayan said the State would sponsor the treatment of the injured. He also visited the injured at different hospitals.
“If any further assistance is required, the State will take an appropriate decision at the right time to support them to get back to normal life,” Mr. Vijayan said.
Among the 18 dead, four were children. The condition of 22 of the 149 injured passengers and crew members continued to be critical. Eight of the dead were from Kozhikode, six from Malappuram and two from Palakkad districts.
Mr. Vijayan appreciated the quick response by the local people to the tragedy. He said the quickness in their response in rescuing the victims had been instrumental in reducing the number of casualties.
Assembly Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan, Industry Minister E.P. Jayarajan, Health Minister K.K. Shailaja, Agriculture Minister V.S. Sunil Kumar, Ports Minister Kadannappalli Ramachandran, Transport Minister A.K. Sasindran, Local Administratoin Minister A.C. Moideen, Higher Education Minister K.T. Jaleel, Excise Minister T.P. Ramakrishnan, Chief Secretary Vishwas Mehta, and Director General of Police Loknath Behra accompanied the Chief Minister.