SAO PAULO, BRASIL.- A high-rise building occupied by squatters in downtown Sao Paulo caught fire and collapsed Tuesday, sending chunks of fiery debris crashing into neighboring buildings and surrounding streets.
Firefighter Lt. Andre Elias told Globo TV that at least one person had been killed. At the moment the building fell, a firefighter atop a neighboring building had been trying to save someone from the upper floors.
TV images showed the person clinging to the building’s side, while apparently also attached to a rope that the firefighter was holding. Then the Wall the person was clinging to started to fall away, taking the person with it. The floors of the burning building collapsed like dominoes, while debris flew in all directions, and a giant fireball briefly filled the street.
Authorities later said that the person killed was the one the firefighter had been trying to save, and a body had not yet been found. Firefighters were using dogs to search for that person and any others in the rubble.
The building, a former federal police headquarters, caught fire around 1:30 a.m. local time. Firefighters set up a perimeter and worked to evacuate people. Less than two hours later, the 25-floor building collapsed while Brazilian media were filming.
No firefighters were hurt. By late Tuesday morning, several families who had fled were camping out in front of a nearby church, where neighbors and local businesses were dropping off supplies including bags of bread, milk, bottles of water and even some used clothing and shoes.