Condemned Building Used by Homeless People Falls in Brazil, Killing 14 People

Condemned Building Used by Homeless People Falls in Brazil, Killing 14 People
A COVID-19 patient arrives by ambulance to a hospital set up in a sports gym in Santo Andre, Sao Paulo state, on March 26, 2021. (Miguel Schincariol/AFP via Getty Images)

RIO DE JANEIRO—An apartment building condemned for more than a decade but used by homeless people collapsed in Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, killing 14 people, including six children, firefighters reported Saturday.

The building in Recife’s Paulista suburb crumbled in the early hours of Friday, prompting a frantic search for victims.

Searchers combed through the rubble with the help of sniffer dogs and rescued two 15-year-old girls and a 65-year-old woman alive, firefighters said. An 18-year-old man was also removed alive, but later died from his injuries.

“Search operations are now focused on the removal of animals,” the fire department said Saturday.

The building was occupied by homeless people although living there had been forbidden since 2010, the Paulista city hall said in a statement.

City officials referred to the structure as a “coffin block,” a name given to buildings built on a large scale in the 1970s in the metropolitan region of Recife, the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo reported.

The city hall statement said the problem of people using officially closed buildings in Paulista is “chronic.” It said officials raised the issue during a recent visit by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is from the northeastern state.

The collapse in Paulista was the second such tragedy in less than three months in Pernambuco. A building disintegrated in April in neighboring Olinda, causing at least five deaths.

Heavy rains had soaked the Recife region before the building collapsed in Paulista, prompting Pernambuco’s water and climate agency to post an alert for the metropolitan area.

A Presbyterian church near the site of the fallen building was offering housing assistance to families who had been living there, city officials said. The church was also collecting donations of food, clothes, mattresses, water and hygiene products, officials added.

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