National Museum of Brazil destroyed in blaze

A fire at the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro has destroyed up to 20 million historical items.

The fire gutted the building, leaving only its shell. The fire began after the museum closed on Sunday night and burned through the night. Fire crews struggled to control the blaze as nearby hydrants were dry.

The fire may have been caused by an electrical fault or a homemade paper hot-air balloon landing on the roof, according to the BBC.

The museum’s archive of nearly 20 million items is thought to be entirely destroyed.

Luiz Duarte, avice-director of the museum, told TV Globo: “It is an unbearable catastrophe. It is 200 years of this country’s heritage. It is 200 years of memory. It is 200 years of science. It is 200 years of culture, of education.”

Duarte blamed the government for letting the museum fall into disrepair: “For many years we fought with different governments to get adequate resources to preserve what is now completely destroyed. My feeling is of total dismay and immense anger.”

One of the museum’s most prominent artefacts was a 12,000-year-old skeleton named Luzia – the oldest found in the Americas. Scientists had produced a digital image of her face and developed a sculpture of her.

Reuters reported that small groups of protesters tried to enter the museum grounds. In recent years, public money for cultural projects has been heavily limited due to recession.

Education Minister, Rossieli Soares, said that the government would initially invest 15 million reais, in two instalments, to restore the structure and rebuild its collection.

Brazil would seek international help to rebuilt the museum and is in discussions with UNESCO.

Last year, the government exempted five theme parks from paying import tax on new equipment in a bid to boost the country’s tourism industry.

Image courtesy Paulo R C M Jr. via Wikicommons

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