BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 July 2007, 13:14 GMT 14:14 UK
Brazilian plane crash 'kills 200'
Firefighters tackle a blaze after a jet crashes in Sao Paulo
The plane skidded across a main road before hitting a fuel depot
A passenger plane has crashed and burst into flames at Brazil's busiest airport, in the heart of Sao Paulo, killing up to 200 people.

Rescue crews said none of the 186 people on board the Airbus A320 could have survived, while more people were killed on the ground.

The TAM airliner skidded off the runway as it landed in wet weather, shot over a busy road and hit a fuel depot.

Concerns had been raised about the safety of the runway during heavy rain.

There had been persistent, heavy downpours in the two hours before the accident.

TAM Express flight 3054 was carrying 186 passengers and crew when it attempted to land at Congonhas airport, which is mainly used for regional flights from other parts of Brazil and South America.

An aerial view of a plane crash scene in Sao Paulo
All of a sudden I heard a loud explosion, and the ground beneath my feet shook
Elias Rodrigues Jesus
TAM employee

The plane was travelling to Sao Paulo, Brazil's financial capital, from Porto Alegre in the south of the country.

After touching down on the main runway at 1850 (2150 GMT) on Tuesday, the jet began to skid and then dropped down a steep slope at the end of the runway.

It then shot over a major road and crashed into a four-storey building used for storing cargo and fuel.

The warehouse was busy with airport workers, some of whom had to jump out of windows.

The plane's tail could later be seen sticking out from the building in flames.

Fires were still burning hours after the crash, with black smoke trailing off into the night sky.

An eyewitness, TAM employee Elias Rodrigues Jesus, said the plane exploded after slamming into the depot.

"All of a sudden I heard a loud explosion, and the ground beneath my feet shook," he told the Associated Press news agency.

"I looked up and I saw a huge ball of fire, and then I smelled the stench of kerosene and sulphur."

A doctor at Sao Paulo's mortuary said 30 badly charred bodies had been brought in.

Sao Paulo State Governor Jose Serra said: "I was told that the temperature inside the plane was 1,000C [1,830F], so the chances of there being any survivors are practically nil."

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva declared three days of national mourning for the victims.

Safety concerns

The weather had been bad for much of the day and there has been concern for some time about safety at Congonhas during heavy rain.

On Monday, a smaller plane skidded off the runway onto the nearby grass in similar conditions.

In February, a judge briefly banned three types of large passenger jet from using the runway because it was too short to accommodate them, and because of concerns over the airport's drainage system

Pilots had complained that water was pooling on the surface of the landing strip, making braking difficult and occasionally causing planes to skid out of control.

Remedial work, including laying a new surface, has been carried out in recent months.

Air safety in Brazil has been a major issue since a crash last year when a passenger plane collided with an executive jet over the Amazon, killing some 154 people.


Emergency services battle the blaze

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific