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By David Byrd
Rio de Janeiro
18 July 2007

Brazilian athletes at the Pan American Games are marking a three-day mourning period following the country's worst airline disaster.  As VOA's David Byrd reports from Rio de Janeiro, athletes will wear black armbands to remember the nearly 200 people who died Tuesday in the Sao Paulo crash.

An EMT worker reads about the crash at a local newsstand

An EMT worker reads about the crash at a local newsstand
Brazilian television read the names of those killed in Tuesday's fiery crash at Sao Paulo Congonhas Airport. Brazilian newspapers carried banner headlines and half-page photos of the tragedy.

The Airbus A-320 was owned by Brazil's domestic Tam Airlines.  It crashed as it was attempting to land on a rain-slickened runway.  The runway had recently been resurfaced, but had not had grooves carved into it to drain the water. 

News reports from Sao Paulo say the pilot had apparently tried to take off again, but did not get altitude and slammed into a building across a busy highway from the airport.

Flags are at half-staff along Rio's Copacabana Beach, 18 July 2008
Flags are at half-staff along Rio's Copacabana Beach, 18 July 2008
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva declared three days of national mourning. 

At the Pan American games in Rio de Janeiro, a statement from the Brazilian Olympic Committee said that the nation's athletes would wear black arm bands to mark the mourning period.  A moment of silence is to be observed before events in which Brazilian athletes are competing. 

Along Rio's Copacabana Beach, the beach volleyball competition continued, but flags are at half-staff.  

The crash was the worst air disaster in Brazil's history.  In September, a Gol Aerolinhas Inteligentes SA Boeing 737 and an executive jet collided over the Amazon rain forest, killing 154 people. 

In February, a Brazil federal court briefly banned takeoffs and landings of three types of large jets, because of safety concerns.  An appeals court overruled that, saying the safety concerns were not sufficient to outweigh the severe economic hardship it would cause Brazil.

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