Globo TV reported some 150 people lived in the building, but most were not inside at the time of the fire and subsequent collapse.
An abandoned high rise building occupied by squatters in downtown Sao Paulo caught fire and collapsed Tuesday, sending chunks of fiery debris crashing into neighbouring buildings and surrounding streets.
The tower block was illegally inhabited by local homeless people, according to the Mirror.
At least one person is dead. One has fallen while the firefighters have tried to deal with the element.
Officials expected to find victims, but didn't know how many, firefighter Lt. Andre Elias told Globo TV. This building didn't have even the minimum conditions for habitation. At least two others are missing, according to a spokesman for the Sao Paulo Fire Department.
Television footage showed damage to an adjacent church. The fire is believed to have originated on the fifth floor, presumably because of the blast of a gas tank, and quickly swept through the entire building. "Fifteen or 20 minutes later the building fell".
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The city and state governments have been working for years to forcibly remove squatters from buildings in central São Paulo, with plans for revitalising the area. The government estimates that almost 4000 families are living in vacant buildings downtown. "We struggle so much and now we've lost everything".
"I was unsure if my son had taken my youngest daughter", Antonio, 48, told AFP. There wasn't time to take anything.
"At first I thought it was a fight but then I heard people shouting 'get out, get out!'" he said. "The state is acting as if us, the occupiers, us, from the movements, are responsible for this".
From a safety point of view, the building was a ticking bomb, Peixoto said.
"The fire started at around 30 past midnight".
The fire was in an area known as "Centro", which is Sao Paulo's historic downtown.