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India Plane Crash

Aired May 21, 2010 - 23:59   ET


ROSEMARIE CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL NEWS ANCHOR: Yes, this is breaking news this hour. An air disaster in India as an express flight from Dubai crashes while attempting to land in Southern India. I'm Rosemarie Church.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States. This is "World Report." And of course, (inaudible) right across the globe and rescue teams are at the sight of a fiery plane crash in Southern India, an Air India 737 from Dubai with 165 people on board overshot the runway in Mangalore and burst into flames.

The state's home minister says as many as 160 people have been killed. The mountainous terrain made it difficult for rescuers to get to the crash site. Officials say five or six people may have survived that crash although we are getting conflicting numbers on that survival number. Mallika Kapur joins us now on live from Kolkata with more details on the crash.

Malika, what additional information have you been able to gather on this tragic accident?

MALLIKA KAPUR: At the moment, Rosemarie, we do know that rescue operations are in full force, about 25 to 30 ambulances are on the scene and the focus right now really is on saving as many lives as possible, but the optimism is very low at the moment because it is a very, very tragic scene, as the pictures will show you, it's a fiery scene.

We do know that this flight, the Air India Express, which is (inaudible) airline was coming from Dubai to Mangalore, scheduled to land at 6:30 a.m. local time this morning early Saturday morning. And minutes before landing there was a loud explosion and the aircraft overshot the runway, hit a fence and went beyond the boundary wall and then it plunged into a valley.

You must keep in mind of the geography, the terrain of the area. It is a very, very rugged, hilly area. The airport is surrounded by hills. The aircraft we believe plunged into a valley, making it a little bit difficult for rescue operators, ambulances to reach the scene immediately but right now, there are about 25 to 30 ambulances on the scene working very hard to save as many lives as possible -- Rosemarie.

CHURCH: Malikka, I just want to guide you to these numbers, these conflicting numbers we're getting on survivors. The home secretary saying perhaps four, maybe five people survived, but the hospital thinks maybe more. Do we have any more information on that, any more clarification, perhaps?

KAPUR: Rosemarie, it has been difficult to get any official confirmation right now, simply because the priority right now is on getting to people, people who have been injured. So, I have to admit, we've been calling frantically, but the officials are not taking calls therefore (inaudible) on what's happening on the grounds.

So it's been hard to get official confirmation on how many people were on board, how many people have survived, how many people are in hospitals. We do know from the various -- what various locals sources are saying, somewhat local networks are reporting, there are perhaps five to eight survivors. Those are the numbers we're hearing.

One of the local networks, one of the local television stations is reporting that they've managed to speak with one of the survivors and that two of the survivors are being treated in the intensive care unit of a local hospital. What we're hearing on the ground is that there are some survivors indeed, but we just don't know exactly how many there are. The numbers we're hearing is about five to eight survivors at the moment.

CHURCH: And Mallika, we're also hearing if it hadn't been for bad weather conditions and the rough terrain, that number could have very well been higher, which pretty incredible, given the circumstances of this crash.

KAPUR: Absolutely. The terrain is difficult and the weather conditions weren't great this morning, it was raining. The visibility was low. The airport is in a very hilly area. Mangalore is a port city on the Arabian Sea. It's a major port of India, but it is surrounded by hills. It is surrounded by the western cut, a mountainous region of Western India.

It's an entire city of rolling hills. The terrain is difficult. When you have bad weather, of course, that makes it more tricky, more complicated. Yes, the landing conditions weren't ideal this morning, which is definitely it made conditions worse.

It's also, of course, made it harder for ambulances and emergency services to reach the scene. But as of right now, the pictures will show you, rescue efforts very much in full force and under way at the moment, trying to save as many people as possible.

CHURCH: All right, Mallika Kapur, reporting from Kolkata. And of course, we will be back in touch with Mallika very soon. And as she told us, the wooded terrain is making it difficult for the rescue teams to reach the crash site. Just a short time ago, our sister network, CNN IBN described what firefighters and crews are facing there.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a major crash. Also, the time the firefighters took to reach the spot, that's what increased the number of casualties. Let's listen in to what the home minister told us. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This mishap has happened and it was a flight coming from Dubai, and about - nearly about 160 people aboard and maybe a handful -maybe five or six people might have survived. And on our tour (inaudible) official - but the (inaudible). The firefighters are there trying to extinguish the fire, but this is a bigger calamity. One hundred sixty nine were aboard and about six or seven might have escaped. All of our firefighters are there to rescue (inaudible). It does happen about 45 minutes earlier now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Eight to ten people have been shifted to hospital preponderance their survival is unsure. They are being treated. This is a highly unfortunate event. The police force, the bomb squad, the fire force and all the hospitals are working together to help out in this situation. We are doing the best we can.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was (inaudible) of Mangalore telling us that a few people, several casualties have been taken to the hospital. Of course, the survival, whether they will be able to survive this incident is not sure. They are in critical condition. They ordered a probe into the incident. It's a huge mishap that's happened this morning at the Mangalore Airport, 160 people are reported to be dead, only 4 to 5 survivors.


CHURCH: Our sister network, CNN IBN there, just a short time ago in fact. Joining us on the phone from New Delhi is CNN IBN news editor, D.P Satish.

Thank you, sir for speaking with us. Obviously, you are glued to this story as is your network. Tell us what additional information you've been able to bring to the table on this tragedy.

D.P. SATISH, NEWS EDITOR, CNN IBN. It was a terrible accident. This accident took place another 6:30 in the early morning. This Air India flight was coming from Dubai to Mangalore. Mangalore is a small airport (inaudible) surrounded by valleys from all three sides. In the morning, it was drizzling in Mangalore because of that this flight skidded off the runway. It kicks the boundary wall and (inaudible) and it cause fire.

Local authorities are confirming that 160 passengers have already been killed in this accident. One of the men climbed out the emergency door of the flight after the aircraft wing hit the boundary wall. And he and three others jumped out of the flight. One hundred sixty passengers have already been killed. It is a mountainous region because of the operations, taking a lot of time and it will continue for three to four more hours.

CHURCH: Can you tell us more about the safety record of Air India and indeed the history there at the Mangalore Airport?

SATISH: Air India have a very good safety record. In the recent past there hasn't been a major accident in India. This is the major accident that took place in India in the last 10 years because safety standards have been improving. They have a very good safety record. At the same time, Mangalore is a small airport. They have a small runway. It was a small domestic airport. All the flights take off and land from here and it has a very narrow runway surrounded by valley and in the hilly region and very close to the sea.

CHURCH: Indeed, all right, D.P. Satish, CNN IBN editor there. Thank you so much. We do appreciate that.

And of course, at this stage, the airport there in Mangalore is closed. There is still smoke billowing out from that crash site. That's affecting visibility there as is the weather. Let's find out about conditions at the time of the crash. For that, of course, we turn to our Jen Delgado who is standing by at the international weather center.

Jen, the weather was not good here at all or it all the wrong circumstances for this crash?

JENNIFER DELGADO: The weather wasn't awful. I have to point that out to you. We've checked the observations. We did have some light rain across the region. Take a look right now on our satellite imagery. You can notice that we do have a bit of moisture working through.

Really right now, the biggest thing we're dealing with out of India is a tropical cyclone out of the east. We are starting to see that monsoon work into the southwest portion of the Indian Ocean as well as the southeastern portion of the Arabian Sea. You can down towards the (inaudible) you can see a little bit of that action.

But I can tell you this, visibility was down to about 2.8 kilometers. If you want to know what that is in miles, it's 1.8. It's not great but ideally you like to see anywhere from 5 to 10 miles of visibility when you are landing a plane. Again, it wasn't awful. Ideally, the conditions could have been better across southwestern portions of India.

Now, again, right now reporting some clouds across the region. If you notice for the next 48 hours, I know the rescue and search effort will be going on. The bulk of it down towards the south as well as over the southeastern portion of India. Again, we did report some clouds up to about 24,000 feet and that indicates we did have rain across the region. The winds weren't a factor. It doesn't look like, roughly we saw winds right around 15 to 20 kilometers and those were sustained winds. No strong gusts at last check across Mangalore Airport. Back to you.

CHURCH: All right, and we'll be turning back in to you, Jennifer, very soon. Thanks for that. We know today's crash is one of the worst air disasters in the past 12 months. Investigators in Libya are still trying to determine what caused another plane to crash while landing in Tripoli. You remember, a 9-year-old boy was the sole survivor of that May 12th crash that killed 103 people.

Last month, a Polish military jet crashed in western Russia, killing all 96 people on board, including the president and dozens of government officials. On January 25th, an Ethiopian airlines jet crashed into the sea just after takeoff from Beirut, all 90 people on board were killed in that crash and in July of last year, a Caspian Airlines jet traveling from Tehran to Armenia, crashed in northern Iran, killing all 168 passengers and crew.

We'll have a little more about Air India, the airline is the country's national flag carrier. Its first flight was on October 15th, back in 1932. It recently merged with Indian, the country's leading domestic carrier. The fleet currently includes 136 aircraft.

People around the world are using social media to connect and share their reaction to word of the lives lost in this crash in India. Mangalore is the top trending topic on and other searches include overshoots runway, passengers and casualties.

Here's a selection of what people are saying on Twitter, Troy David tweets this, my condolences to the family and friends of the people that just lost their lives in the plane crash in India.

Laura in British Columbia shares her condolences. My thoughts and prayers are with the families and victims of the Mangalore air crash. And Mohammed tweets this, it was Dubai Mangalore flight, God knows what is happening around the world.

Sue House in Mangalore tweets, very sad to hear about the Mangalore mishap. Ambulances and rescuers are on the scene, do you have videos of the scene?

If you do, go to to share i-witness reports. If you're concerned about loved ones that may have been on that flight, we have a number to call for information. Air India's helpline number is 011- 256-03101.

Hopefully we can bring those numbers up for you. It does help to see those numbers. There's another number, 011-256-56196. If you could jot those numbers down, we'll just hold them up for a little bit longer so you can take a look at that, that first number, 011 256- 03101. A couple of numbers there that yu can call if you're concerned of any possibility that your love ones may have been on that flight.

And then this number for Mangalore, 082-4222-0422. We'll have other news in just a moment as well as more of our coverage of the plane crash in southern India. Do stay with us.