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Building Collapses in São Paulo, Revealing Lack of Government Control over Occupied Properties

05/02/2018 - 11h27

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FROM SÃO PAULO

A fire started in the early hours of Tuesday morning (the 1st), triggering the collapse of a 24-storey building that had been occupied by squatters in downtown São Paulo.

At one point, the building - which belonged to the Union - had been the headquarters of the Federal Police before being leased to the city of São Paulo. The building, which had been occupied by the LMD movement (Fight for Dignified Housing), housed 150 families, adding up to a total of 400 people.

According to residents, an explosion was heard before the fire began - most of them suspect it had to do with a gas canister.

The collapse occurred while a man who had been helping rescue others was himself being rescued. He has not been located since.

In the early evening, 44 people registered as residents had yet to be identified - although the turnover rate of tenants is considerably high.

The collapse caused panic and revealed the lack of control that public institutions have over properties they own that have been occupied.

Danilo Verpa/Folhapress
The building collapsed after 90 minutes
The building collapsed after 90 minutes

The safety conditions of the building had already been assessed back in 2015 but the Civil Defense and the Licensing Department found that there were no risks that could justify expropriation.

The fire became larger, encompassing surrounding buildings - five of which were evacuated. Among them was the Martin Luther Church, 80% of which was destroyed. The church, which was deemed a landmark, was São Paulo's first Evangelical parish, having been built in 1908.

Translated by THOMAS MATHEWSON

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