The UAE feels the pain of Air India Express plane crash in Kerala

Satish Acharya
An illustrative cartoon
Image Credit: Satish Acharya

Kerala is passing through turbulent times. The plane crash, which claimed the lives of more than 18 people Friday evening, is the latest in a line of tragedies that have visited the south Indian state.

After the initial success of reining in the coronavirus outbreak, the second wave of infections caught the state on the hop. When the government ramped up measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the monsoon season triggered landslides, flooded rivers and inundated low-lying areas in a grim reminder of the deluge of August 2018 that killed around 400 people.

For Kerala, it was a Black Friday. As torrential rains battered the state, Keralites woke up to the news of a massive landslide in Idukki district. At least 23 people were killed, and more than 40 are feared buried under the mud. Even before the people came to terms with the death and devastation, disaster struck again a few hours later.

An Air India Express flight repatriating 190 Indians from Dubai skidded off the runway in Karippur airport in Kozhikode and broke into two. Most of the passengers were returning to Kerala in the wake of the global pandemic.

The loss of these families will echo in the UAE too, where friends and colleagues mourn their passing.

Landings at tabletop airports are always tricky. There’s always the inherent danger of overshooting the runway. That was the case with the Mangalore airport tragedy in May 2010, which killed 158 people. The lessons of Mangalore seem to have been forgotten.

Some reports say that aviation authorities in India have ignored recommendations to install safety systems at tabletop airports. A Bloomberg report said Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation safety analyst who advised India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation, wrote in a 2011 letter that all flights landing at the runway at Kozhikode in tailwind condition in the rain are endangering the lives of all on board. And, it was raining heavily on Friday. Did it contribute to the crash? We don’t know.

The black boxes have been recovered, and investigations are underway. So it’s too early to assign blame. Whatever be the cause of the crash, at least 18 families have lost their dear ones. That includes the two pilots. Even the interim compensation announced by the airline will do little to alleviate the suffering of the grieving relatives.

The loss of these families will echo in the UAE too, where friends and colleagues mourn their passing. Most of the dead and wounded had built their lives and livelihoods in the UAE. They were an integral part of the expatriate community here, which is why the UAE feels Kerala’s pain.

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