SÃO PAULO, Brazil (CNN/CBSMiami) — Scores of firefighters battled a huge fire that engulfed a 20-story apartment building in the Brazilian city of São Paulo early Tuesday.
The high-rise tower collapsed after the fire raged through the building and spread to another structure nearby. Firefighters said at least one person had been killed in the collapse and that there could be more.
Local media outlets reported that the building was a headquarters for the federal police but had been abandoned for many years and was frequently occupied by squatters.
Romulo de Souza, 49, said he was part of a squatter occupation in the neighboring building. He said that when the fire began on the fourth floor of the former police headquarters, families began evacuating.
“Happily the majority got out,” he said.
De Souza said that residents believed the fire could have been started by a gas leak.
As many as 160 firefighters in 57 vehicles responded to the massive fire on the Largo do Paisandu street in the center of the city.
Chef Nadja dos Santos Freitas filmed a video of the fire from the balcony of her apartment on the nearby Avenida Ipiranga.
“The fire started at around 30 past midnight. My husband and I woke up with the noise of glass breaking,” she told CNN, adding: “Every day we pass by there and we knew that there would be a tragedy. The building was in ruins; the fire department inspected it a short time ago.”
Clearing debris and accounting for people who had been in the building could likely take days.
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