, BANGALORE, May 22 – An Air India passenger plane crashed as it came into land in the southern city of Mangalore on Saturday, killing most of the 166 people on board, officials said.
Mangalore deputy police commissioner R. Ramesh said the flight from Dubai — a Boeing 737 carrying 160 passengers and six crew — crashed at around 6:30 am (0100 GMT) after overshooting the runway.
Ramesh told AFP from the crash site that rescue workers had pulled half-a-dozen survivors from the wreckage. "All the rest are dead," he said.
Television footage showed at least three survivors being stretchered into a nearby hospital in Mangalore.
"My hands, face and legs are all burnt. There was a lot of smoke and fire inside and there was no way to get out," Uner Farooq, his head wrapped in bandages, told the NDTV channel from his hospital bed.
It was the worst plane crash in India since 61 people were killed when a passenger plane crashed into a residential area near the eastern city of Patna in 2000.
"There are a few survivors," an Air India spokesman in Mumbai told AFP. "We have confirmed that. But we don\’t have the number," he added.
Karnataka Home Minister V.S. Acharya called for local people\’s cooperation in what he called "this hour of crisis" and urged them to stay away from the crash site.
"It is feared that most of the people have died," Acharya told reporters.
It was not immediately clear what caused the crash, although Ramesh said the airport had been lashed by heavy rains which had hampered rescue efforts.
Television images showed the plane had partially broken up, with smoke billowing from the main fuselage, as rescue workers sought to douse the fire with foam.
Rescue teams had to struggle down steep, wooded slopes to reach the plane, and were shown carrying body parts away from the site.
Mangalore is a coastal city, around 320 kilometres (200 miles) west of Bangalore.
"The accident occurred after the aircraft landed at Mangalore airport and overshot the runway. Air India is currently confirming the identities of the casualties," the airline said in a statement.
The flight was operated by Air India Express — a budget airline run by the state-run carrier.
Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel was due to fly to the site from New Delhi later Saturday.
Many Indians from Karnataka and other southern states work in Gulf cities such as Dubai as construction workers, domestic staff and in other low-paid jobs.
They send much of their earnings back to India as remittances, and return to India for their annual leave.
India\’s worst aviation accident occurred in 1996 when two passenger planes collided in mid-air near New Delhi with the loss of all 349 on board both flights.
The crash was blamed on a Kazakhstan Airlines plane descending below its assigned altitude, putting it in the path of a Saudi Arabian Airlines plane that had taken off minutes earlier from the Indian capital\’s airport.