Brazil’s National Museum engulfed by massive fire

Marsha Scott
September 5, 2018

Rio de Janeiro's treasured National Museum, one of Brazil's oldest, a day after a massive fire ripped through the building. "Two hundred years of work, research and knowledge were lost", Brazilian President Michel Temer said in a tweet Sunday.

Outside the entrance to the elegant park that houses the 200-year-old former Imperial Palace, angry protesters called on the government to rebuild the museum while trying to make their way through the gates that surround the grounds. There were visible signs of disrepair in the 200-year-old building, such as exposed wiring and walls with peeling paint.

A deputy director at the museum, Luiz Fernando Dias Duarte, voiced "profound discouragement and enormous anger" as the treasured institution burned, accusing Brazilian authorities of a "lack of attention".

Firefighters were poised to enter the charred ruins to see what might be salvageable, a fire department spokesman told AFP, adding that it would be risky. Fire authorities say there was a huge amount of flammable material in the building-and the nearest two hydrants were dry.

It was not clear what was at the site when the building caught fire Sunday night.

Ms McKay, who has visited the museum in Brazil, said there were similarities with her own institution.

Priceless artifacts spanning 11,000 years went up in flames as an inferno swallowed Brazil's National Museum Sunday.

The museum held Latin America's largest collection of historical and scientific artifacts, and officials suggested that the damage could be catastrophic, with one official telling a Brazilian news outlet that as much as 90 per cent may have been destroyed.

More than 20 million items are stored within the museum's collection, including the fossilized remains of "Luzia", the oldest human fossil found in Brazil.

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The museum was also home to important artefacts of the indigenous peoples of the Americas before Europeans set foot on the continent, including textile fragments, featherwork and Andean mummies (groups of Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina).

According to the Guardian report, firefighters reportedly had trouble finding water to combat the blaze.

"For many years we fought with different governments to get adequate resources to preserve what is now completely destroyed", said Duarte, the vice director.

The largest meteorite - 5.36 tons - ever found in Brazil was also in the museum.

The museum has suffered underfunding for years that prevented renovations and forced it to close exhibits.

The Rio de Janeiro federal university did not immediately respond to a question on whether the museum was insured.The museum's pastel-yellow facade remained standing after the blaze, but a peek inside its giant windows revealed a roofless interior of blackened hallways and charred beams.

The staff had just gone through fire training and arranged for flammable items, such as animals kept in bottles with alcohol and formaldehyde, to be removed from the building.

Between 2013 and 2017, the National Museum in Rio's federal funding fell about a third, to 643,567 reais, according to official budget data.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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