It was almost landing time. Muhammed Ali looked outside the flight window and saw it was raining heavily. He was relieved to finally be able to reach Kerala, his homeland, after suffering a job loss in distant Dubai and spending many anxious days with no clue of what the future held. But something unusual was happening within the aircraft.
The plane that had attempted to land suddenly rose up again and hovered above for several minutes. The air was getting hot inside. Without any warning, the plane suddenly attempted to land again but crashed itself at the tabletop airport, splitting itself into three.
Several people died, more than a hundred got injured. Muhammed Ali, aged 36 years, found himself in one of the hospitals arranged for the injured in the crash.
"I was coming back after suffering a loss of employment," he said from a hospital bed.
Close to midnight - within four hours of the mishap - 17 people have died. Ali is one of the survivors, who had, when he applied for the Vande Bharat mission, wrote pleading: "Dear sir ..I lost my job.. please approve registration ASAP.."
Rescue operations reached fast. Despite the hospitals in the state being occupied with COVID-19 patients, they made space for the injured.
"Initially airport staff and local people rushed to the spot. Around 100 people were taken to hospital in cars. Ambulances arrived in 10 minutes.
Nearly everyone was taken out from the aircraft and shifted to the hospital. Two passengers were stuck inside for a while but they too have been rescued later. Only two were confirmed dead when we were doing the rescue operation," Karipur panchayat ward councillor Jafar Siddique Karippur said.
Muhammed, who lived nearby, rushed to the spot, hearing a blast. At first there was only a single ambulance. Muhammed and a few others in the neighbourhood went to get help and started the rescue work. "We first rescued the children. We were able to hear only people crying inside," he said.
Once the flight came down it moved slowly through the runway before the crash happened, said another passenger Hareendran, a native of Thalassery.
"It was moving slowly through the runway. Then suddenly the speed increased. We felt a strange vibration and held onto our seats tightly. I was at the back. People at the back were not so seriously injured," Hareendran said.
Another passenger who was in the front of the flight and survived the accident corroborated Hareendran's comment. "After the landing announcement it took some time to land. We were all scared as there was a delay in landing. Finally when it landed we were all relaxed. But after that the speed increased and we just heard a sound," she said.