26-story building in Brazil collapses after massive blaze

Posted May 02, 2018

The BBC reports that the fire began around 1.20am local time (4.20am GMT), and that over 100 firefighters attended the scene.

The cause of the fire is now unknown, according to the fire department spokesman.

One resident, Romulo de Souza, told Globo TV that the fire started on the fourth floor. Witnesses heard someone calling for help on an upper floor when the building collapsed.

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

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

The collapsed building, once a police facility, was inhabited intermittently by squatters several years ago.

"When people told me there was a fire, I woke up the children and ran", she said. Flábio Gabia, a receptionist at a nearby hotel, told local newspaper Estadao: "When I went to see what it was, the streets, which were deserted, were filled with desperate people".

Brazilian President Michel Temer visited the scene early Tuesday morning, but rushed away after some victims began throwing rocks and debris at his auto. Victims shouted "leave", behind him.

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França said about 150 buildings in the region were occupied by organised groups of squatters, who have pressured the government for years to provide housing for the city's homeless. The government estimates that almost 4,000 families are living in vacant buildings downtown. The cause of such a dramatic reduction may be because former Sao Paulo Mayor Joao Doria cracked down on squatter communities downtown in a bid to revitalize the area.

Doria argued the downtown should showcase Sao Paulo, the engine of Brazil's economy and one of the hemisphere's most important financial centres.

Firefighters believe clearing the rubble, which was still smouldering hours afterward, could take days.

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