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Delays mount at Brazil airports as crisis drags on

  • Story Highlights
  • Nearly half of all flights in Brazil were delayed or canceled Tuesday
  • Weekend radar glitch in the Amazon also forces rerouting of scores of flights
  • 199 people died in Brazil's worst ever plane crash last Tuesday
  • Family members of the victims of last week's crash plan to hold protests
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SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) -- Nearly half of all flights in Brazil were delayed or canceled Tuesday for the third straight day as the country's air crisis deepened following a deadly crash last week and a major radar outage.

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Victims' relatives protest Sunday in front of Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport after last week's deadly crash.

Brazil's airports authority, Infraero, said at least 171 flights were delayed nationwide and an additional 91 had been canceled by midday, further angering travelers who have already been subjected to repeated disruptions in the past 10 months.

"You can't get to work, you can't schedule appointments, and you end up wasting your day because you're stranded," university professor Lindomar Rocha said as he waited for a flight at Rio de Janeiro's international airport.

Most of the delays and cancellations took place in the business capital Sao Paulo, where heavy rains Monday forced authorities to close the country's busiest airport for hours, causing a ripple effect of disruptions at other airports.

The downpours caused a small mudslide on the edge of the airfield at Congonhas Airport that spilled over onto a highway that provides access to the terminal.

The mudslide took place at the same airport where an Airbus A320 flown by TAM Linhas Aereas skidded off a rain-slicked runway last Tuesday and crashed into a nearby cargo building and gas station, bursting into flames.

All 187 people on the flight and at least 12 more on the ground were killed in the accident, the deadliest in Brazil's history. Firefighters are still searching for bodies at the site, which the city plans to turn into a memorial.

The TAM accident was the second major air disaster in Brazil since last September, when a Boeing 737 operated by Gol Linhas Aereas clipped wings with a private jet and crashed in the Amazon jungle. All 154 people on board were killed.

The Gol accident exposed serious flaws in Brazil's aviation system, touching off months of delays and cancelations that the government has struggled to remedy.

Air traffic controllers, fearing they were being blamed for the country's aviation woes, have staged periodic work slowdowns for months to protest outdated radar and radio equipment and poor salaries.

The crisis worsened over the weekend when a radar glitch in the Amazon jungle forced more than a dozen international flights to change course, causing delays at several airports in Brazil and the United States.

Family members of the victims of last week's crash were scheduled to hold protests later Tuesday at Congonhas and Salgado Filho airports in the southern city of Porto Alegre, where the doomed TAM flight originated. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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