At least one killed in São Paulo tower block collapse

One person has been confirmed dead after a huge fire engulfed and destroyed an apartment building in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo early Tuesday, according to state-run news agency Agencia Brasil.

The building is reported to be the former headquarters of the Federal Police, however it's been empty for several years and was recently occupied by groups of squatters.

Firefighters were alerted at 1.30am local time (5.30am in the UK).

After starting a fire in the house started evacuation, but it is unknown how many people were in the building at the time of the fire and managed to evacuate. Media reports differ on the actual number of residents of the building, the number of which could have been up to 100 people, others say up to 50 families were registered to live. The hotel receptionist told Folha newspaper that he was alerted to the blaze by shouting.

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"There is not even a minimal condition for people to live in there", Franca said. Witnesses said flames spread quickly from one of the lower floors and set an adjacent building on fire. The high-rise collapsed 90 minutes later. The building, in the Largo do Paissandu area, was apparently occupied illegally, according to the São Paulo newspaper Estadão.

De Souza said that residents believed the fire could have been started by a gas leak. "There was also a lot of combustible material, such as wood and paper which helped fuel the fire", he said. Firefighters continued trying to fully extinguish the flames amid the debris of concrete chunks and twisted metal pipes.

Firefighters have cordoned off a large area around the blaze.

  • Sonia Alvarado