A fire in Sao Paulo, Brazil, brought down a high rise building occupied by squatters on Tuesday with at least one confirmed casualty.
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.
The former federal police headquarters caught fire around 1:30 a.m. local time early Tuesday morning, and within hours the inferno blazed through 20 stories of the structure ultimately causing its collapse. Globo TV filmed the utter destruction live as it happened while covering the blaze. The network’s terrifying footage shows the moment when the fire damaged too much of the structure, causing each floor to collapse on the one below as they fell like dominoes.
Early reports state that the majority of those calling the building home ending up safely escaping the fire, which started on the building’s fourth floor.
While officials have yet to release the cause of the fire, Romulo de Souza, 49, who occupied the building, said he felt perhaps a gas leak could’ve ignited the flames that ultimately destroyed the high rise and left at least one person dead.
Unfortunately, authorities believe several people remain missing, so the search for possible survivors or victims continues, which could end up taking days. According to a BBC News report, officials believe some people could be trapped inside the collapsed 26 story building.
A burning building in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil, partially collapses in the middle of the night.
Firefighters said they believed there may be victims, but did not yet know how many. pic.twitter.com/3bN9hdrFio
— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 1, 2018
While last summer AP reports showed 350 families living in this abandoned police headquarters, local media reports that number had dwindled to near 50. 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.
Not everybody agreed with the former mayor’s tactics, though, and others hoped to see the area converted to affordable housing instead of a robust economic showcase.
The city of Sao Paulo is Brazil’s most populous, and it is among the world’s most populous cities. With such a large population, affordable housing remains a concern, and this fire in a building where squatters lived will shine a light on that serious issue.