SAO PAULO (AP) — A large fire severely damaged four warehouses belonging to Brazil's largest sugar and ethanol cooperative in the port of Santos, destroying hundreds of thousands of tons of sugar before it was controlled, the fire department there said Friday.

Santos Fire Department commander Lt. Col. Wagner de Souza told reporters the fire roared through four sugar warehouses belonging to sugar cooperative Copersucar.

Codesp, the government run agency that operates Santos port, said the blaze started early Friday in one warehouse and then spread to the others. Santos is South America's largest port in terms of the value of cargo handled.

Codesp spokeswoman Celia Regina de Souza said the fire severely damaged the four warehouses and destroyed much of the 300,000 tons of sugar stored in them.

Copersucar said in a brief emailed statement that four employees suffered minor injuries.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately known.