An 18-story building partially collapsed after an explosion in the historic center of Rio de Janeiro Wednesday night, state media reported.
At least two people were killed and 11 others were missing, CNN affiliate Band News reported, citing city Civil Defense officials.
“I started to hear a crackling. I thought they were gunshots. When I looked up, I saw the top floors falling,” maintenance worker Julio Cesar de Oliveira Brandao told CNN affiliate TV Record.
There was a fire after the blast, Agencia Brasil said. Police and fire officials were isolating the area and searching for victims, the news agency reported.
Cars parked on the street were covered in dust, and there was a strong smell of gas in the area, fire officials said, according to the news agency. The building’s lobby contained a bank branch and a bakery, Agencia Brasil said.
Accounts of the collapse, and what may have caused it, differed.
Witnesses told Band News that neighboring buildings swayed, as if there had been an earthquake. One witness said many people were inside the building when it collapsed.
The office building is in a bustling commercial and financial area of Rio de Janeiro, near a large public plaza and a municipal theater.
Electrical engineer Jorge Drauss told TV Record he was drinking juice at a nearby diner when he saw small stones falling from the top of the building.
“I thought it was someone making a hole for air conditioning,” he said. “From one moment to another, the building began to fall.”