Sao Paulo high rise collapses during massive fire, victims unknown

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A 26-storey building has collapsed after being engulfed in flames in Brazil's largest city, São Paulo.

More than 170 firefighters are at the scene, along with a civil defence response team and the army.

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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.

After starting a fire in the house started evacuation, but it is unknown how many people were in the building at the time of the fire and managed to evacuate. Debris could be seen falling into the surrounding streets. "We don't know how many people were in the building so we don't know whether we'll find more victims in the ruins". Witnesses heard someone calling for help on an upper floor when the building collapsed. Firefighters set up a perimeter and worked to evacuate people.

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The fire was in an area known as "Centro", which is Sao Paulo's historic downtown.

The fire passed on to the neighboring building, but there is no threat of its collapse. Local media on Tuesday reported that between 50 and 150 were now living there, underscoring the sometimes fluid nature of such makeshift dwellings.

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Search and rescue operations could take days. "The state is acting as if us, the occupiers, us, from the movements, are responsible for this". He had envisioned a revitalized downtown, a glitzy showcase for one of the hemisphere's most important financial centers. Fair-housing activists had criticised his efforts saying he should focus on creating affordable housing to the tens of thousands who need it. "I patted the mattresses, saw no one was at home anymore, then I went down behind them shouting their names to see if they had gone down".