As many as 160 people were feared dead after an Air India plane arriving from Dubai crashed on Saturday as it overshot a runway while trying to land in southern India.

Television images showed dense black smoke billowing from the aircraft surrounded by flames just outside the Mangalore city airport in a hilly area with thick grass and trees.

Firefighters sprayed water on the plane as rescue workers struggled to find survivors. One firefighter ran up a hill with an injured child in his arms.

Officials in the state of Karnataka said of the 169 people believed on board, only six or seven might have survived.

"This is a major calamity," Karnataka Home Minister V.S. Acharya told CNN-IBN TV.

The aircraft overshot the runway, hit a fence and went beyond the boundary wall of the airport, according to the Press Trust of India.

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