An Airbus A320 from Brazilian TAM airline caught fire after landing in the airport of Congonhas in the south side of São Paulo city. The plane, carrying 176 people aboard – 167 passengers and nine crew members – was coming from Porto Alegre, in the south of the country.
The aircraft skiddedÂ offÂ a runaway, crossed a busy avenue and collided against a warehouse and a gas station, bursting into flames. AT least 13 fire victims were taken to nearby hospitals.
Information is sketchy and it is still not known the number of people injured and how many people may have died. According to the Fire Department, at least three people had already died when they arrived in the hospital.
São Paulo Fire Department chief, colonel Manuel Antonio da Silva Araújo believes there is no survivors in the plane and according to him several people were also killed in the neighboring buildings and streets hit by the plane: "We will have 200 dead." he told São Paulo mayor Gilberto Kassab.
The accident happened at about 6:45 pm andÂ Congonhas has been closed to all outbound and inbound flights. All car traffic was blocked in two main arteries in the area: Washington Luís Avenue and 23 de Maio Avenue, a multilane expressway that links downtown to the south side of São Paulo.
"Tam's Airbus A320 aircraft, flight JJ 3054, that left Porto Alegre, at 5:16 pm, bound to the Congonhas Airport (São Paulo), suffered an accident when landing at the airport in São Paulo.
"At this time we are not able to establish the extension of injuries or possible lesions suffered by plane'sÂ occupants and crew. A Tam's team is already at the place of the accident and other company's experts are on their way there. Emergency assistance is also being provided by the Fire Department, Infraero and other air travel authorities.
"Tam has already activated its Assistance Program to Victims and Relatives and made available a free 800 number in order to assist the passengers' relatives and the crew of this flight: 0800 117900.
"Any other important information will immediately be reported by Tam."
Lula Wants Answers
While inquiries on plane accidents are made by experts and may take months of analyses, according to Brazil's Social Communication Secretariat, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has sent Air Force commander, Juniti Saito, to the Congonhas Airport in order to personally analyze the TAM accident. He is expected to arrive at the crash scene tonight.
The same secretariat informed that the Brazilian president is following up close the news coming from São Paulo, in the company of several ministers including chief of staff Dilma Rousseff, Defense Minister, Valdir Pires and Minister of Institutional Relations, Walfrido Mares Guia.