200 feared dead in fiery plane accident in Brazil

A Brazilian passenger jet crashed and burst into flames after skidding off a runway and barreling across a busy highway, officials said.

200 feared dead in fiery plane accident in Brazil

About 200 people, including victims on the ground, are presumed dead in the crash of a Brazilian airliner that skidded into a petrol station on landing Tuesday, a Sao Paulo fire chief said.

The TAM airline Airbus A320, with 176 people on board, skidded off the runway at Congonhas airport in Sao Paulo, across a busy highway and rammed a petrol station and another building, setting off a huge blaze around 6:50 pm (2150 GMT).

The flames quickly spread to other nearby buildings, and parts of at least one building collapsed amid multiple explosions, Brazilian broadcaster Globonews reported. Dozens of ambulances and 400 firefighters were on the scene.

Forty bodies have been recovered, according to the state Ministry of Safety overnight to Wednesday, and numerous other casualties had been taken to hospitals, local television reported.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula Silva said he was "deeply concerned" and promised a full investigation into the accident, according to a government spokesman. Silva declared a three-day state of mourning after calling an emergency meeting of his cabinet in Brasilia.

The plane was arriving from the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, and the runway was reportedly wet amid heavy rain.

"There are probably around 200 people dead," fire chief Manuel Antonio da Silva Araujo told Brazilian news website UOL.

TAM said that the aircraft carried 155 passengers, 15 TAM employees travelling on the flight and a flight crew of six.

The plane hit some cars when it crossed the highway, according to media reports. Destroyed in the blaze were a building housing TAM's freight service, another commercial building and some houses. The fire was largely under control after about four hours.

Congonhas, the second-largest airport serving the Brazilian financial centre Sao Paulo, was shut down following the accident. Residents of the Sao Paul neighbourhood of Moema, adjoining the airport, reported panic during the explosions set off by the crash.

One day earlier, another plane slid off the runway at the same airport and came to rest to in a grassy area nearby. The airport's worst accident occurred in October 1996 when a Fokker-100 plane from TAM airline slammed into homes in a densely populated area of Sao Paulo, killing all 96 people on board and at least eight on the ground.

Brazil's most recent major air disaster was in September 2006 when a Boeing 737 operated by Brazilian carrier Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes crashed after clipping wings with a Legacy business jet over Brazil's Amazon rainforest, killing 154 people. The Legacy landed safely.

Since then air traffic controllers went on a work slowdown, claiming equipment was outdated and risky. The issue remains unresolved.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 18 Temmuz 2007, 09:37