On this day…..42 years ago, fire broke out in the 25-storey Joelma Building in the centre of Sao Paulo in Brazil. The blaze happened just a few weeks after the disaster movie, The Towering Inferno, was released, and it became known as ‘the real Towering Inferno’.
The fire was started by an electrical fault on the 11th floor, and spread rapidly thanks to the ready availability of combustible materials such as paper, plastics and wooden walls and furniture, and within a few minutes, flames were leaping right up to the roof.
When the blaze began, there were more than 750 people inside, but the building had no emergency exits, fire alarms or sprinkler systems. More than 170 fled to the roof, but the heat and smoke foiled a helicopter rescue, and about 40 were killed jumping down or trying to get to firemen’s ladders out of reach below them.
Others died of suffocation attempting to escape via the building’s escalators, and altogether up to 189 people were killed. After the disaster, Brazil’s fire regulations were tightened up.