In Brazil's National Museum Fire, Officials Fear 'Incalculable' Loss Of Artifacts

Arturo Kim
September 3, 2018

A fire blazes at the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil September 2, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media.

Roberto Robadey, a spokesman for the fire department, said firefighters got off to a slow start fighting the blaze because the two fire hydrants closest to the museum were not functioning.

Firefighters from seven different stations are trying to battle the blaze, but Brazilian President Michel Temer has already said the losses are too great to be calculated.

"Two hundred years of work and research and knowledge are lost".

Luiz Duarte, another vice-director, told the country's TV Globo: "It is an unbearable catastrophe".

But the fire quickly led to criticism over dilapidated infrastructure and budget deficits as Brazilians prepare to vote in national elections in October.

He said the museum, a former palace that was once the official residence of the Portuguese royal family, had never had necessary support. No injuries have been reported so far, and authorities do not yet know the reason for the conflagration, which is still being extinguished by firefighters, according to the Estado de Sao Paulo.

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"History cannot be measured by the damage to the buildings that housed the royal family during the Empire".

The museum houses a sprawling collection that includes artifacts and specimens related to botany, paleontology, geology, and archaeology, from ancient Egypt, Greece, and elsewhere, as well as a large scientific library. "Collections that are over 100 years old", Cristiana Serejo, one of the museum's vice-directors, told Brazil's G1 news.

Historian Ana Lucia Araujo highlighted the significance of the National Museum, saying it was "the equivalent of the British Museum in Brazil", though went on to point out that the museum in Brazil housed 20m items to the British Museum's 8m.

"Brazil needs to take better care of its cultural heritage and the collections of its museums".

A firefighter rescues items during a fire at the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. "The most bad irony", Duarte reportedly said.

"This fire is what Brazilian politicians are doing to the people", said Rosana Hollanda, a 35-year-old high school teacher, who was crying at the gates of the museum on Monday.

Brazil's Ministry of Culture Sergio Sa Leitao said the country "is in mourning".

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