Burning building in Sao Paulo collapses, at least 1 dead

Sao Paulo fire

Sao Paulo fire

More than 150 firefighters are battling the blaze which is thought to have been caused by a gas explosion.

Some 50 families had moved into the building in the Largo do Paissandu area of the city after the federal police force, which had been using it, vacated it some years ago.

Authorities told local media one person was killed in the fire, but that number could go up as recovery operations continue.

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.

Sao Paulo is Brazil's financial capital and the most populous city in Latin America but suffers huge economic inequality. As firefighters worked to contain the flames, chunks of fiery debris rained down.

In a July 2017, story on the residences, The Associated Press reported that around 350 families were living in the former police headquarters.

Fire took hold of the building in the early hours of Tuesday.

Debris could be seen smashing into the ground and occupying surrounding streets.

President Michel Temer, who is Brazil's most unpopular leader on record, with single-digit approval ratings, got a hostile reception when he briefly visited the scene. Victims shouted at him to "leave".

The fire highlights the perils of Sao Paulo's affordable housing crisis. The government estimates that almost 4000 families are living in vacant buildings downtown. According to the Associated Press, "many such dwellings are run like regular apartment buildings, with doormen and residents paying monthly fees and utility bills".

Firefighters try to extinguish a fire at a building in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil May 1, 2018.

Firefighters said they believed there were victims, but it was unclear how many.

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