San Paulo highrise fire
15 May 2018

Massive fire in San Paulo highrise highlights Brazil´s affordable housing crisis


At least one person died after a massive fire burned in two buildings in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on May 1, causing a high-rise to collapse.

The fire broke out about 1:30 a.m. As firefighters worked to contain the flames, fiery debris rained down. Hours after the fire started, the building, which was more than 20 stories high, collapsed.

Local station Globo TV captured the building collapsing.

At least one person was reportedly killed. Witnesses heard someone calling for help on an upper floor when the building collapsed. At least two others are considered missing, according to a spokesman for the Sao Paulo Fire Department.

One resident, Romulo de Souza, told Globo TV that the fire had started on the fourth floor. As it spread, families fled. 

“Luckily, the majority got out,” de Souza told local reporters.

Flábio Gabia, a receptionist at a nearby hotel, told local newspaper Estadao:

“When I went to see what it was, the streets, which were deserted, were filled with desperate people.”

De Souza and other residents speculated to local media that the fire was caused by a gas leak.

The fire is  right at the heart if Sao Paulo's affordable housing crisis.

Highly organized squatters have taken over as many as 70 buildings in the downtown area of South America's largest city.

The government estimates that nearly 4,000 families are living in vacant buildings downtown. According to the Associated Press, “many such buildings are run like regular apartment buildings, with doormen and residents paying monthly fees and utility bills. Others are less established and more precarious.”