An abandoned building engulfed in flames in downtown Sao Paulo collapsed Tuesday as firefighters worked to put out the fire that began in the wee hours of the morning.
The Associated Press reported that the building was formerly a federal police headquarters but had been abandoned for many years.
Firefighters were alerted at 1.30am local time (5.30am in the UK).
Though a fire department spokesman told CNN the department did not expect any deaths or injuries, local newspaper Estadão said at least one person had died and others were thought to be still trapped in the rubble. People were seen jumping from the upper floors in an attempt to escape the fire, according to eyewitnesses.
"It was a matter of seconds but we couldn't save him", firefighter Max Mena said.
The governor said it was legally hard to force people to evacuate the old and decaying buildings.
He added: "There is not even a minimal condition for people to live in there". Witnesses said flames spread quickly from one of the lower floors and set an adjacent building on fire.
As many as 160 firefighters in 57 vehicles responded to the massive fire at a building on the Largo do Paisandu street in the center of the city. Officials admit that more than 150 unsafe buildings in São Paulo are in the same situation, housing families of squatters who have nowhere to go. "There was also a lot of combustible material, such as wood and paper which helped fuel the fire", he said.
Last year, dozens of homes were destroyed by a fire in a favela in the city.
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