Deadly fire tears through Rio's 200-year old National Museum

Agencies | Published: September 03, 2018 10:07:47 | Updated: September 06, 2018 18:16:01


A fire blazes at the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Sunday — Reuters photo

A huge fire has broken out at the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, the oldest scientific institution in the country.

Firefighters are tackling the blaze at the building, which contains more than 20 million items in its collection.

There have so far been no reports of any injuries in Sunday's fire, the BBC reports.

The museum, which once served as the residence for the Portuguese royal family, celebrated its 200-year anniversary earlier this year.

The destruction of the building, once a palace for emperors that had fallen into disrepair, was an “incalculable loss for Brazil,” President Michel Temer said in a statement, reports Reuters.

“Two hundred years of work, research and knowledge were lost.”

Aerial images broadcast on Brazilian television showed how the fire, which started in the evening after the facility had closed for the day, had spread throughout the building.

The full extent of the damage and cause of the fire are not yet known.

Firefighters in Rio did not reply to requests for comment when contacted by Reuters.

The museum, which is tied to the Rio de Janeiro federal university and the education ministry, was founded in 1818. It houses several landmark collections, including Egyptian artifacts and the oldest human fossil found in Brazil.

The museum had suffered from years of neglect under numerous governments, the institution’s vice-director the Globo TV network on Sunday night.

“We never got anything from the federal government,” said the official, Luiz Duarte. “We recently finalized an agreement with (state-run development bank) BNDES for a massive investment, so that we could finally restore the palace and, ironically, we had planned on a new fire prevention system.”

In a statement posted on its website in June, BNDES agreed to financing of 21.7 million reais ($5.35 million) to “physically restore the historic building” and also to carry out work to “guarantee more security to its collections.”

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