A building in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo that was occupied by squatters has collapsed after it was engulfed in flames. At least one person died and several others are missing.
The 26-story abandoned building occupied by squatters in Sao Paulo went up in flames and collapsed early Tuesday, sending fiery debris and plumes of black smoke into nearby buildings and streets.
Firefighters said at least one person died and at least three more were missing in the collapsed building, the former headquarters of Brazil's federal police. The death toll may rise.
Search and rescue operations could take days. Hours after the building went down there was smoldering debris and smoke rising from the destruction.
Globo TV reported some 150 people lived in the building, but most were not inside at the time of the fire and subsequent collapse. It was not clear what started the fire.
The building was one of some 150 abandoned properties occupied by squatters in the center of the metropolis of more than 20 million people. The disaster is sure to renew attention on squatters and abandoned buildings.
The city and state governments have for years sought to remove squatters in a bid to clean up and revitalize the center of Latin America's most populous city.
Sao Paulo state Governor Marcio Franca told the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper that it was legally difficult to remove squatters.
"There is not even a minimal condition for people to live in there," Franca said. "People live there in desperation. This was a tragedy foretold."
cw/rc (AP, dpa, Reuters)