SAO PAULO – Brazilian firefighters continued on Wednesday the search for survivors after a burning building collapsed in downtown Sao Paulo earlier this week, killing at least one person, officials said.
According to the fire department, at least 44 people were still missing following the blaze early Tuesday, although authorities have not been able to confirm whether they were inside the building during the collapse or if they were not there at the time.
The fire department has been clearing the rubble manually with 78 firefighters and 31 vehicles, since the use of machinery is only allowed after 48 hours.
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 only known victim is a man, identified simply as Ricardo, who was close to being rescued by firefighters before the building crashed down, as was shown in shocking television footage.
Sergeant Diego Pereira da Silva Santos, who was attempting to rescue Ricardo from an adjacent building, said that “only 30 or 40 more seconds” were needed to save him.
The attorney general’s office of Sao Paulo said that an investigation filed in March regarding the building’s structural safety would be reopened.
In addition, the Mayor’s office said that the civil defense would inspect the structural safety of 70 buildings in Sao Paulo that are being squatted by close to 4,000 low-income families.