Investigators find black boxes from Indian plane crash

People stand by the debris of the Air India Express flight that skidded off a runway while landing in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 08 August 2020

Investigators find black boxes from Indian plane crash

  • The Boeing 737 was on a special flight from Dubai to bring back Indians stranded by the coronavirus pandemic
  • Kozhikode is considered a tricky airport as it has a table-top runway with a steep drop at one end

KOZHIKODE, India: Investigators have recovered the “black box” flight recorders from an Air India Express plane that crashed in southern India killing at least 18 people, the aviation minister said Saturday.
The plane carrying 190 people crash-landed during bad weather Friday night and tore in two, injuring scores of passengers.
The Boeing 737, on a special flight from Dubai to bring back Indians stranded by the coronavirus pandemic, overshot the runway at Kozhikode in Kerala state, plunged down an embankment and broke up.
“Fuel had leaked out so it was a miracle that the plane did not catch fire, the toll could have been much higher,” one senior emergency official at the scene said.
Aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri visited the site Saturday and announced that the flight data and cockpit voice recorders had been found, which will help the investigation into the cause of the crash.
The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau was conducting the probe, he said.
Kozhikode is considered a tricky airport as it has a table-top runway with a steep drop at one end.
Kerala has been hit by severe floods in recent days and heavy rains had been falling for several hours at Kozhikode as the jet landed.
Puri put the latest death toll at 18, while authorities said 22 people were in critical condition in hospital.
The fatalities included the two pilots as well as four children.
Passenger Renjith Panangad, 34, recalled the plane touching the ground and then everything went “blank.”
“After the crash, the emergency door opened and I dragged myself out somehow,” he told AFP from a hospital bed in Kozhikode.
“The front part of the plane was gone — it was completely gone. I don’t know how I made it but I’m grateful. I am still shaken.”
The impact was so brutal that the nose of the Boeing 737 finished about 20 meters (yards) from the back half of the jet.
“All that we could hear were screams all around. People were soaked in blood everywhere, some had fractures, some were unconscious,” said local resident Fazal Puthiyakath who was among the first at the scene.
Indian media quoted air traffic control officials and a flight tracker website as showing the Boeing 737 twice circled and started to land before it crashed at the third attempt.
The jet repeatedly jumped up and down in buffeting winds before the landing, survivors told Indian television.
Local taxi drivers and traders joined airport rescue staff to help free people from the wreckage in the dark and wet.
Several people on board had to be cut out with special equipment. It took three hours to clear all the injured and bodies, officials said.
Taxis ferried many of the injured to hospitals.
“Locals rushed to the spot after hearing the noise,” one rescue worker said. “People came in cars, messages were being sent on WhatsApp... that people were needed to help.
“At first, people took the injured to the hospitals in their cars. Then the emergency services took over.”
One of the infants died in a car before the child could receive treatment.
The flight was one of hundreds in recent months to bring home tens of thousands of Indians stranded abroad by the coronavirus pandemic, many of them in Gulf countries.
Kerala’s health minister K.K. Shailaja asked all those involved in the rescue to go into isolation because of the risk of catching the coronavirus from passengers.
According to flight documents seen by AFP, 15 of those on board had lost their jobs and 12 were returning for a medical emergency. Two were coming back to be married.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences.
“My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones,” Modi said.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was saddened by the “loss of innocent lives.”
In June, a Pakistan International Airlines flight plowed into a crowded Karachi neighborhood, killing 97 people aboard and a child on the ground.
The last major plane crash in India was in 2010 when an Air India Express Boeing 737-800 from Dubai to Mangalore overshot the runway killing 158 people.


Police clash with anti-lockdown protesters in London

Updated 19 September 2020

Police clash with anti-lockdown protesters in London

  • Scuffles broke out Saturday as police moved in to disperse hundreds of demonstrators who gathered in London’s central Trafalgar Square
  • Britain’s Conservative government imposed a ban on all social gatherings of more than six people this week in a bid to tackle a steep rise in COVID-19 cases in the country

LONDON: Police in London have clashed with protesters at a rally organized by opponents of restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.
Scuffles broke out Saturday as police moved in to disperse hundreds of demonstrators who gathered in London’s central Trafalgar Square. Some protesters formed blockades to stop officers from making arrests, and traffic was brought to a halt in the busy area.
The “Resist and Act for Freedom” rally saw dozens of people holding banners and placards such as one reading “This is now Tyranny” and chanting “Freedom!” Police said there were “pockets of hostility and outbreaks of violence towards officers.”
Britain’s Conservative government imposed a ban on all social gatherings of more than six people this week in a bid to tackle a steep rise in COVID-19 cases in the country, but officials are considering even stricter restrictions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday that Britain is “now seeing a second wave” of the coronavirus, after seeing the same in France, Spain and across Europe.
Britain has Europe’s worst death toll in the pandemic with 41,821 confirmed virus-related deaths, but experts say all numbers undercount the true impact of the pandemic.
In a statement, British police said protesters were “putting themselves and others at risk” and urged all those at the London rally to disperse immediately or risk arrest.