SAO PAULO – Rescue teams recovered the first body from the rubble of a building in Brazil’s largest city which collapsed earlier this week after being engulfed in flames, the Sao Paulo fire department said.
“At around 14 hours (2 pm) yesterday, rescue dog Vasty identified a possible victim in Sector 1. Search and rescue teams focused on that area and, after clearing the rubble manually, found the first body,” the department said on social media Friday.
Firefighters found several body parts that might belong to Ricardo, a man who was close to being rescued before the building crashed down in the wee hours of Tuesday.
The department increased the number of missing people to six and said that finding any survivors was “unlikely.”
Besides Ricardo, rescue teams are searching for a missing woman, identified as Selma Almeida da Silva, her two children, as well as Eva Barbosa, 42, and Walmir Souza Santos, 47, who lived together on the eighth floor.
Authorities are unsure of the whereabouts of 40 out of the 372 people who lived in the building, although no information has been presented to confirm that they were inside when it collapsed.
The Wilton Paes de Almeida building was a 24-storey high rise built in the 1960s that housed the headquarters of the Federal Police in Sao Paulo for close to two decades, although during the last few years it was occupied by squatters, including at least 50 homeless families.
The causes of the fire, which spread to two adjacent buildings, are still being investigated.
On this fourth day of search and rescue operations, rescue teams have been using machinery to help clear the rubble, including excavators and a tractor.
Most of the affected families have been placed in municipal shelters and will receive 1,200 reals ($340) in monetary assistance during the first month and 400 reals ($113) during the next 12 months.