RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — A jet carrying 176 people skidded off a runway Tuesday night while landing in Sao Paulo, the country's busiest airport, crashing into a building and gas station across the street from the airport.
The extent of casualties was unknown. Television news showed one body covered by a sheet lying on a street near the burning wreckage of the Airbus 320, operated by the Brazilian airline TAM. Other news reports said 10 bodies had been recovered as of 10 p.m. Tuesday.
The crash occurred almost 10 months after a mid-air collision over the Brazilian Amazon killed 154 people.
The Airbus had departed the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre at 5:16 p.m. Tuesday and crashed while landing at Congonhas airport in Sao Paulo, South America's biggest city, about 90 minutes later, said Rogerio Lyra, a spokesman for the Brazilian airport authority Infraero.
The plane skidded off the rain-slicked runway, left the airport and crossed neighboring Washington Luis Avenue, one of Sao Paulo's busiest streets, in the middle of rush hour, Lyra said. The plane slammed into a gas station and a building operated by TAM and burst into flames, Lyra said.
Firefighters hadn't extinguished the flames more than two hours after the accident. All takeoffs and landings were suspended for hours.
The Airbus slid off a runway that had been renovated at a cost of more than $10 million and reopened in late June after three planes had slid off of it since January 2006. Those planes managed to stay in the airfield, and no one was hurt.
The runway is known to flood during rains. In February, a federal court had temporarily banned use of the runway due to concerns that it was too short for large planes to land on during rain.
On Monday, an ATR-43 propeller plane operated by Pantanal airlines slid off the same runway and ground to a halt after turning around, Lyra said. No casualties resulted.
The runway had been reopened without grooving that could help planes brake, news reports said.
"Congonhas airport is at the limit of its use," Lyra said. "In an urban airport like this, there isn't the same amount of space as we have in other airports, and flooding is the result."
Brazil's air traffic system has been in turmoil since 154 people died in a mid-air collision on Sept. 29, 2006, between a Boeing 737 operated by the Brazilian airline Gol and a private corporate jet piloted by two U.S. citizens. Air traffic controllers have staged work slowdowns to protest conditions and investigations into their role in the crash, producing widespread delays and cancellations.
Aviation experts say the growth in air traffic in recent years has overburdened the country's infrastructure.