23 May 2010

India plane crash kills 158

5:46 am on 23 May 2010

A plane crash in southern India is believed to have killed 158 people.

The Air India Express plane from Dubai reportedly overshot the runway at the Mangalore airport in Karnataka state. It landed in forest and caught fire.

The BBC reports there was heavy rain at the time.

There were only eight survivors from the Boeing 737-800, which had 166 passengers and crew on board.

An airport official had earlier said he feared everyone on board had died.

Mangalore airport is located at the top of a hill with a forested valley at the end of the runway, and analysts say it presents challenges for pilots.

"The plane broke into two. I jumped out of the plane after it crashed. I saw two other people also come out," a survivor known only as Abdullah, told local channel TV9 from hospital.

"There was tyre-burst kind of noise. I tried to get out of the front but saw that there was a big fire. So I went back again and jumped out from there."

Another survivor says the plane deviated and hit something.

The BBC says the airport has very few international flights and this was the only overseas arrival on Saturday. Most of those on board were Indians working in the Gulf.

Air India Express is a budget offshoot of Air India. Despite the rise in budget airlines in the country in the past decade, the safety record of local airlines has been generally good.