SÃO PAULO – A high rise building occupied by squatters in Brazil’s most populous city caught fire and collapsed Tuesday, sending chunks of fiery debris crashing into neighboring buildings and surrounding streets.
More than 150 firefighters are battling the blaze which is thought to have been caused by a gas explosion.
Firefighters said at least one person had been killed in the collapse and that there could be more. About 50 families reportedly were living in the abandoned building.
Video showed dust, flames and sparks flying into the air.
The 26-storey building, a former headquarters of the federal police, caught the fire around 1:30 a.m. local time. Firefighters set up a perimeter and worked to evacuate people.
Authorities were working to locate several others who were missing.
Firefighters believe clearing the rubble, which was still smouldering hours afterward, could take days.
São Paulo Governor Márcio França said the building was an accident waiting to happen but that its residents had resisted leaving.
“That type of home is uninhabitable, staying there is looking for trouble,” he said speaking at the site of the blaze.
São Paulo, Brazil’s vibrant financial center, is among the world’s most populous cities, with numerous cultural institutions and a rich architectural tradition.