163 survive as plane crashes and burns

ALL 163 passengers and crew on board a Russian-built airliner survived after it crashed in dense fog, flipped over and caught fire at New Delhi airport before dawn yesterday. Indian rescue workers described the astonishing escape from death as 'providential'.

Madhavrao Scindia, Civil Aviation Minister, who had brought in Russian-made planes to break a strike by pilots, said he was 'deeply anguished' by the crash and submitted his resignation. He was jeered by passengers at the airport when he visited the wreckage.

The passengers and crew were saved, according to officials at New Delhi airport, because the emergency doors on the Tu-154 aircraft were flung open by the impact of the crash.

Passengers quoted by Indian news agencies said the airliner, on a flight from Hyderabad, landed in 'a most unusual' manner. Hampered by poor visibility, the pilot, an Uzbek who was relatively unfamiliar with the airport, thudded the left wheels down on the runway, and was unable to stabilise the aircraft. It skidded, flipped over, broke into three pieces, and caught fire.

A passenger named Vinod, who was travelling with his wife and child, described the scene immediately after the crash. 'The plane was full of smoke and even the ground outside was on fire. Luckily, we located a patch of ground that was not burning and jumped,' he said.

Jasbir Singh, another passenger who had been sitting in the front of the plane, said: 'We were facing 100 per cent death. The only thing we were thinking of was the mode of death. But incredibly, we were able to just walk out.' Once safely outside the plane, the passengers cried and hugged each other.

Their joy swiftly turned to anger as they waited for ambulances and rescue teams to come speeding through the fog to help evacuate the crashed airliner. No help came for 30 minutes, some of them said. Only six passengers were taken to hospital with injuries.

Mr Scindia was responsible for leasing several Russian-made Tu- 154s from Uzbek Airlines, in an attempt to break a month-long strike by Indian Airlines pilots at the height of the tourist season.

The Prime Minister, Narasimha Rao, has yet to accept his resignation. Tipped by many as a future leader of the ruling Congress Party, Mr Scindia is a cricket enthusiast who has arranged the England team's itinerary across India.

All Russian-made planes leased by Indian Airlines were grounded immediately after the accident. Captain Suresh Kumar, leader of the striking pilots, said that the airline management had ignored safety warnings about the Russian-built airliners.

Several days ago, according to Indian Airlines, the same pilot narrowly avoided colliding with an Indian air force jet when he mistakenly tried to land his airliner at a military base in Madras.

In Bombay, the death toll rose to 90 as Hindu-Muslim fighting continued for a fourth day yesterday, spreading to new areas. Rioters fought gun battles with police and extra troops were rushed in.

At least 20 died yesterday, including seven Muslim militants shot dead by police commandos in a rooftop gun battle in the city centre, witnesses said. Rioters pelted fire engines with stones and petrol bombs to try to stop them putting out scores of fires.

A curfew was imposed on 12 mixed neighbourhoods. The Defence Minister, Sharad Pawar, ordered 'appropriate and ruthless action' to restore order.

The city had yet to recover from religious clashes last month following the destruction of a mosque by Hindu zealots in the northern town of Ayodhya.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...