As dawn revealed the extent of the wreckage of the crashed Brazilian airliner, which is thought to have claimed the lives of around 200 people, the recriminations were already beginning. The TAM airways Airbus A320 had skidded off the runway at Sao Paolo airport in heavy rain, the same runway which had just been closed for six weeks because it was deemed dangerous.
The plane, with 186 people aboard, ploughed across a road, into a petrol station, and exploded. There were no survivors on the plane. The internal flight had taken off from Porto Alegre in the south of the country. The runway it was attempting to land on had just been reopened after resurfacing work. “The runway was finished two weeks ago,” said an airport worker. “But there were no grooves to give the plane traction and help it stop, which was a serious danger. One has to be brave to come through this airport.”
Work to put grooves in the tarmac was not due to begin until September but airport officials had decided to reopen the runway anyway. On Monday, another plane with 21 people on board had slid off the same runway onto the grass. That warning, it seems, was not enough to avert what is thought to be Brazil’s worst-ever air disaster.