About 1,500 families were recently evicted after a lengthy legal action by the landowner, police sources said [REUTERS]

Brazilian police have stormed a a sprawling settlement of landless workers near Sao Paulo in an attempt to reclaim the land.

Local news media showed images of burning vehicles on Sunday as riot police faced off with local residents armed with clubs, makeshift shields and motorcycle helmets.

The Globo TV network portal G1 cited local officials in Sao Jose dos Campos as saying 15 people had been detained and one injured in the raid on the Pinheiros settlement.

An estimated 5,500 people live in the settlement, built on private land that landless families took over some eight years ago. They recently lost a legal battle with the land's owner and were evicted.

In November, elite police units raided Rocinha, the largest slum in Rio de Janeiro, around 440 kilometres east of Sao Paulo.

The slum is home to about 100,000 people living in flimsy shacks that sprawl over a mountainside separating some of Rio de Janeiro's richest neighbourhoods, a location that has made it one of the most lucrative and largest drug distribution points in the city.

Brazilian authorities have vowed to establish control over the country's slums and present an orderly face by the time the country hosts the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

Source: Agencies