Tower block collapses in São Paulo after fire

Globo News

The 26-story abandoned building occupied by squatters in Sao Paulo went up in flames and collapsed early Tuesday, sending fiery debris and plumes of black smoke into nearby buildings and streets.

The dramatic blaze, which resulted in the building's partial collapse, started at 1:36 a.m., according to a Sao Paulo Fire Department spokesman.

A rescue worker along with a sniffer dog searches for victims on a collapsed building in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil May 1, 2018. According to preliminary information, one person was killed and three are reported missing.

Less than two hours later, as flames engulfed the building, which was at least 20 stories, it collapsed. The fire is believed to have originated on the fifth floor, presumably because of the blast of a gas tank, and quickly swept through the entire building. Local media on Tuesday reported that between 50 and 150 were now living there, underscoring the sometimes fluid nature of such places.

"It's a building that didn't have the most minimal conditions to live in", Sao Paulo Gov Marcio Franca, who visited the site, told news site UOL, adding that "the occupation should never have been allowed".

An adjacent building caught fire, but was evacuated and no one was injured.

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Brazilian President Michel Temer visited the scene early Tuesday morning, but rushed away after some victims began throwing rocks and debris at his vehicle.

The fire highlights the perils of Sao Paulo's affordable housing crisis.

The city and state governments have for years sought to remove squatters in a bid to clean up and revitalize the center of Latin America's most populous city.

Then-mayor of Sao Paulo, Joao Doria, had launched an aggressive crackdown on these communities.

Officials say it will take days to clear the debris.

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