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Death toll in Brazilian air crash rises to 186 while search continues for crash victims
SAO PAULO, July 18 (Xinhua) -- The death toll in the worst air disaster in Brazil's civil aviation history is even higher than originally expected, as TAM airlines updated from 176 to 186 the number of people aboard the Airbus 320 on Wednesday.

TAM, owner and operator of the aircraft, said there were 186 people aboard when the plane crashed, including 162 passengers, 18company officials and six crew.

Marco Bolo, the airlines chief executive, told reporters that there were no signs that anyone aboard the plane survived.

Sao Paulo state Governor Jose Serra said no one could have survived the 1,000 degrees Celsius fireball.

Brazilian fire crews have recovered 175 bodies from the wreckage of the plane that crashed on Tuesday at Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport, the state's Public Security Department said.

The department said three others died upon reaching hospital. Of the 178 killed, 140 have been transferred to the Medico-Legal Center for identification.

The Brazilian government on Wednesday declared three days of national mourning for its worst ever air tragedy, while rescue workers were still in the near-impossible search for survivors.

The death toll could reach 200 if all the charred bodies are recovered from the aircraft and the TAM baggage building which was engulfed in flames when the plane crashed into it, authorities said.

The Airbus 320 belonging to the TAM airline crashed on Tuesday at 6:50 p.m. (2150 GMT) as it tried to land at the nation's busiest Congonhas airport in heavy rain.

The plane, flight 3054 from Porto Alegre, skidded off the runway, traveled across a busy avenue and crashed into a fuel station and a TAM baggage building. The building and the aircraft were engulfed in flames.

Witnesses said the pilot appeared to be trying to take off again when the plane overshot the runway.

Eleven people who were working in the TAM building when the plane crashed into it have been sent to hospital. Six others are still missing and feared dead.

The nation's president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, ordered a swift investigation into the causes of the disaster and cancelled an official visit to four states: Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Parana and Rio de Janeiro.

The plane's black box flight recorders found by fire crews on Wednesday had been sent to the United States for analysis.

The airport restarted flights at 6:27 a.m. (0927 GMT) Wednesday, but the main runway will remain closed until July 21, said Armando Scheneider, an official of the Brazilian Airport Infrastructure Enterprise.

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