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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 July 2007, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Crash will resonate across Brazil
By Gary Duffy
BBC News, Sao Paulo

Firefighters tackle a blaze caused by an aircraft that crashed on landing in Sao Paulo
Firefighters struggled for hours to put out the blaze

The shattered remnants of an airport warehouse belonging to the Brazilian airline TAM told most of the story in one stark image.

In among the acrid smoke lay piles of charred rubble from the partially collapsed building.

Fire officers moved around the debris, their grim task to recover the bodies, where possible.

A long line of emergency vehicles stood nearby, but there was little more to be done.

On the remaining upper levels of the building - from where some people had leapt to save their lives - a few orange flames could still be seen, the last remains of the fierce fire that began when the aircraft crashed.

And as the black smoke trailed away into the night air, only one recognisable part of the aircraft remained.

The tail of the plane still stood erect, the distinctive red and white of TAM blackened by the intense fire.

Confusion and delays

The darkness and the pouring rain reflected the bleak reality of what had happened.

Tail of a plane that crashed in Brazil

This is a tragedy that will resonate across the whole country.

Congonhas is Latin America's busiest airport, and it sits right in the heart of Sao Paulo.

Many people live directly around the airport, and up to 18 million use it every year.

It is a central part of Brazilian life.

And Brazil's airline industry had barely recovered from last year's crash in which an airliner and an executive jet collided, killing 154 people.

This devastating accident will undoubtedly lead to more confusion, delays and uncertainty in the country's airports.

Safety fears

Troubling questions will be asked about whether this is an accident that could have been avoided.

Only 24 hours before, a smaller plane had skidded off the runway at Congonhas.

Last year, another plane also veered off a runway.

In both these incidents, no-one was hurt.

In February, a judge briefly cancelled flights in and out of the airport due to safety concerns.

Some maintenance work was carried out and the authorities insisted the runway was safe.

It is an issue that many people would like to see resolved, for the sake of air safety in this country, and most of all for the sake of the grieving relatives.

Emergency services battle the blaze

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