As many as 26 volunteers who helped the passengers of the Air India Express plane that crashed in Kozhikode airport on August 7 have tested positive for the coronavirus, PTI reported on Thursday. Eighteen people including both pilots were killed in the aviation disaster.

District Collector K Gopalakrishnan, Superintendent of Police U Abdul Kareem and 21 officials, –including police and fire force personnel – who were involved in the rescue operations, are among those who have contracted the infection.

“As far as my information from the airport sources goes, as many as 26 local people, involved in the rescue operations, have tested positive for the virus so far and are now under medical care,” Malappuram District Medical Officer K Sakeena told the news agency.

The Air India Express Boeing 737 was a special repatriation flight carrying 190 passengers from Dubai, who had been stranded in the Gulf region during the coronavirus pandemic. On August 7, the aircraft had overshot the Kozhikode airport’s table-top runway in heavy rain, tumbled into a valley and split into half.

Rescue crews, including many villagers, had rushed to the crash site within minutes and pulled people out. The next day, all volunteers involved in the emergency operation were asked to go into quarantine by Health Minister KK Shailaja, after one of the deceased passengers tested positive for the virus.

Over the next few days, 21 others, including government officials, present at the site of the crash were also found to be infected, following which Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan went into self-quarantine.

Kerala has reported 32,607 coronavirus cases, including 182 deaths as of Thursday, according to the Union health ministry. Meanwhile, India’s tally rose to 28,36,925 as 69,652 new cases were reported in 24 hours. The toll increased by 977 to 53,866.

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