Anger Mounts

Thursday, July 19, 2007
By George Hatcher

Cezar Britto, president of The Order of Lawyers of Brazil said it was “a tragedy waiting to happen,” echoing public opinion. “What exploded in Cagonhas was not just the TAM airbus and almost 200 victims but the credibility of the Brazilian aviation system.”

Cagonhas is notorious for its short, dangerous runway.

“The runway was as slippery as soap,” a pilot confessed.

Rescuers pulled 181 bodies from the twisted metal wreckage and rubble. Five people are listed as missing. 11 are hospitalized. No passengers survived.

Relatives gathered to identify the remains amid calls for authorities to improve airport safety.

The crash is the latest of a series of airline disasters. The main runway had been resurfaced last month, but more work was scheduled to allow for better water drainage.

“Control tower operators had warned the runway should be closed,” said Sergio Olivera, who heads the Federation of Air Controllers.

Footage of landing showed the aircraft travelling at high speed–the Airbus took only three seconds as opposed to the usual 11 to traverse the runway then disappeared after skidding off the left side of the runway. Then a ball of flame filled the sky.

An investigation has been ordered. One of the black boxes has been recovered.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva declared three days of national mourning. Pope Benedict XVI expressed his sorrow.

In February a judge banned Fokker 100, Boeing 737-800 and Boeing 737/700 jetliners from the airport but the ruling was overturned in appeals.

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