High-rise in São Paulo collapses during fire

2 May 2018

High-rise in São Paulo collapses during fire

A 26-storey high-rise building in São Paulo, Brazil, has collapsed, killing at least one person after it became engulfed in flames on Tuesday.

Over 150 firefighters battled the blaze which started on the first floor at about 1:30 am local time and continued to spread upwards. In 15 minutes, firefighters were on the scene. Just 90 minutes later, the whole building collapsed.

The collapsed building was a former federal police headquarters which had since been occupied by squatters including 50 families. It is unknown how many were able to escape.

The man who died had been talking to a firefighters while clinging to a rope, but the building collapsed just before he could be rescued, the fire department said.

“It was a matter of seconds but we couldn’t save him,” firefighter Max Mena said.

Witnesses who were living close to the building said people were standing on roofs screaming for help.

A 58 year-old woman who had been staying on the fourth floor of the building told Folha newspaper, “It felt like a tsunami when the building came down. I could not take anything with me.”

The apartments inside the building had been constructed from wood which only fuelled the blaze, the São Paulo newspaper, Estadão, reported.

Captain Marcos Palumbo of the São Paulo Fire Brigade said that modifications made by the residents had also allowed the fire to spread more quickly.

“The lifts had been taken out and those empty air shafts formed a chimney. There was also a lot of combustible material, such as wood and paper which helped fuel the fire,” he said.

It is not clear what the cause of the fire was, however reports have circulated that a gas leak may have started it.