There are fears a massive fire has destroyed Brazil’s 200-year-old National Museum in Rio de Janeiro and its collection of more than 20 million items.
- The museum houses artefacts from Egypt, Greco-Roman art and Brazil’s ancient fossils
- There were no reported injuries, fire began after museum closed to the public
- Officials say the museum suffered chronic underfunding
It was not immediately clear how the fire began on Sunday night (local time) but in a statement the museum said the blaze started after it had closed to the public.
The museum houses artefacts from Egypt, Greco-Roman art and some of the first fossils found in Brazil.
President Michel Temer said the destruction of the building, once a palace for emperors that had fallen into disrepair, was an “incalculable loss for Brazil”.
“A sad day for all Brazilians … 200 years of work, investigation and knowledge have been lost,” Mr Temer said.
There were no reported injuries in the fire.
‘The museum suffered chronic underfunding’
Connected to the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, the museum has expositions that include anthropology, archaeology and palaeontology, among others.
The vice director of the museum, Luiz Fernando Dias Duarte, told Globo news the museum suffered chronic underfunding.
“Everybody wants to be supportive now … We never had adequate support,” he said.
“We never got anything from the Federal Government …We recently finalised 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.”
Brazil has struggled to emerge from its worst recession in decades.
The state of Rio de Janeiro has been particularly hard hit in recent years thanks to a combination of falling oil prices, mismanagement and massive corruption.
Many of the museum’s collections came from members of Brazil’s royal family. (AP: Leo Correa)