Forty nine people were listed as still missing Wednesday after a 24-storey building occupied by squatters in central Sao Paulo was engulfed in fire and collapsed, the Brazilian city’s fire department said.
In the immediate aftermath of the disaster on Tuesday only three were declared unaccounted for, including one man who was seconds from being successfully rescued by firefighters before the building suddenly crashed down.
Officials gave no indication whether the large number of missing were considered likely to have been killed and buried under the rubble, or whether they simply were not there at the time.
The building, a disused former police headquarters, was occupied by 146 homeless families, officials say, blaming a lack of even basic fire prevention measures for the speed and ferocity of the blaze. Officials have not said how they think it actually started.
For now rescue teams using search dogs were working slowly in the still hot wreckage, hoping to find someone alive. (AFP)