Burning high rise in Sao Paulo collapses; at least 1 dead

Sao Paulo fire

PMESP Sao Paulo fire The 26-storey block collapsed after it set alight

An abandoned high-rise building occupied by squatters in downtown Sao Paulo caught fire and collapsed on Tuesday, sending chunks of fiery debris crashing into neighbouring buildings and surrounding streets.

Firefighter Lieutenant Andre Elias told Brazilian news channel Globo TV that emergency personnel expected to find victims, but were unsure exactly how many to expect.

Globo TV reported some 150 people lived in the building, but most were not inside at the time of the fire and subsequent collapse.

A spokesperson from the fire department said the second building wasn't in danger of collapsing.

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São Paulo Governor Márcio França said the building was an accident waiting to happen but that its residents had resisted leaving.

Sao Paulo is Brazil's financial capital and the most populous city in Latin America, but suffers huge economic equality, with poor families often squatting in disused buildings or plots of land.

"There was no security, there were not adequate electrical installations, there were no safe staircases, there were piles of rubbish - there was everything you need to start a major fire", he said.

A few hours later, as flames engulfed the building of at least 20 stories, it collapsed.

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Evacuees told the police that part of the building's inhabitants managed to escape on time. Most likely there are victims, it is still not known how much. At least two others are missing, according to a spokesman for the Sao Paulo Fire Department.

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

Former Sao Paulo Mayor Joao Doria aggressively cracked down on these communities. Fair-housing activists, on the other hand, argue that the area could offer affordable housing to tens of thousands of people.

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