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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 July 2007, 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK
Calls for Brazil airport to close
Still from video showing plane landing
The video footage shows the final moments of the flight

There are mounting calls for Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport to close in the wake of Tuesday's Tam Airlines crash in which some 200 people died.

The airport should shut "until its security conditions are examined", Brazil's Federal Public Ministry said.

And federal prosecutors are said to have asked courts to close the airport until both its runways are renovated.

Officials are still trying to establish why the Airbus 320 overshot the runway, hitting buildings and then exploding.

The crash occurred in wet conditions, on a recently resurfaced runway which has been criticised as being too short.

New video footage shows some of the final moments of the Tam Airlines flight from the southern city of Porto Alegre, and another similar plane which had arrived earlier.

The footage appears to show the Tam plane travelling along one section of the runway at higher than normal speed.

We have operated thousands of times under heavy rain and nothing has happened
Jose Carlos Pereira, Infraero

It shows the first aircraft apparently taking 11 seconds to travel along the visible section, while the plane that crashed covers the same distance in three.

The Airbus 320 jet appears to continue speeding along the runway without slowing, before disappearing out of view. The flash of an explosion can be seen a short time later.

According to the Associated Press news agency, federal prosecutors have asked for a court order to try to force the airport's closure.

"It is necessary to temporarily paralyse the activities at the Congonhas Airport in Sao Paulo until a complete renovation of both of its runways can be completed and there is certainty that they are fully secure for full operations," AP quoted the prosecutors as saying in a statement.

Road and burned out buildings
The plane passed over a busy road and ploughed into buildings

But Jose Carlos Pereira, the head of the nation's airport authority Infraero, told AP that closing the airport - one of Brazil's busiest - was unjustified.

"It's not a matter of shutting down the airport or opening indiscriminately. We have operated thousands of times under heavy rain and nothing has happened," Mr Pereira said.

In February, amid fears that the airport was too close to residential areas and that its runways were too short, a federal court briefly banned three types of large jet - the Fokker 100, Boeing 737-800 and Boeing 737-700 - from using the airport.

The decision was overturned, but the runway was ordered to be resurfaced - which happened in June.

But Brazil's airport authority said work to groove the runway, to help clear rain water, was not scheduled to take place until 28 July, after the concrete had settled.

'Visual checks'

On Wednesday, Armando Schneider Filho, Infraero's director of engineering, said it met international safety standards.

"Twenty minutes before the accident, Infraero performed a visual inspection of the runway and detected no problems. It was wet, but there was no accumulation of water," he said.

Passenger relatives await news in Porto Alegre on 18 July 2007
Most of the passengers on board the plane were Brazilian

On Monday, however, two other - smaller planes - skidded off the airport's runway.

Opposition politicians have attacked the decision to use the runway before the grooving work was done and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has ordered an investigation into whether the runway was opened too early.

Workers missing

According to Brazil's TV Globo, the Brazilian air force, which oversees the country's air traffic control system, believes the new footage shows the plane was travelling at excessive speed.

Launched: 1988
In operation: 1,700
Operators include: British Airways; Air France; Air Canada; China Eastern Airlines; Iberia; United Airlines; Jet Blue Airways

As the plane careered towards the busy road nearby, one theory is that the pilot tried to take off again. The aircraft crossed the road and ploughed into a Tam Airlines building.

"That he jumped over the avenue was an indication he tried to take off. If he didn't (try to take off) he would have gone nose down at the end of the runway," Brig Jorge Kersul Filho, director of the Air Force's Centre for Investigation and Prevention of Air Accidents, said.

Some 180 bodies have been recovered from the burnt wreckage, says fire chief Nilton Miranda, adding another 20 bodies are expected to be found.

Most of the passengers and crew on board the flight were Brazilian, including an opposition congressman, Julio Redecker.

There were also two French nationals, an Argentine and a Peruvian.


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