Brazil fire: São Paulo building collapses in huge blaze

A building in the center of Sao Paulo, Brazil's biggest city, collapsed early Tuesday after a blaze that reportedly killing one person.

It wasn't clear how many people were inside when the fire began around 1:30 a.m. local time. The cause of the fire is thought to have been a gas explosion. That blaze was brought under control relatively quickly, São Paulo Fire Brigade Lieutenant André Elias told Globo TV.

The governor said it was legally hard to force people to evacuate the old and decaying buildings.

The building was formally a headquarters for federal police but had been abandoned for many years and had been occupied by squatters, according to local media.

Footage of the building collapsing has been shared online, showing huge flames and billowing black smoke.

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CBS News reported that the building's collapse rained fiery debris onto nearby structures and the street below as firefighters worked to evacuate people from the area and create a safe perimeter around the location.

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

"I heard several people shouting".

Then squatters moved in; an Associated Press investigation previous year found about 350 families living there. According to the Associated Press, "many such dwellings are run like regular apartment buildings, with doormen and residents paying monthly fees and utility bills. Fair-housing activists had criticized his efforts saying he should focus on creating affordable housing to the tens of thousands who need it. Firefighters are expected to spend the day looking through the rubble in search of missing tenants.

  • Adam Floyd