Fire rips through 200-year-old Rio museum

Fire rips through 200-year-old Rio museum

Brazil's National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, which is one the largest museums of natural history in Latin America, has been destroyed in a massive fire, just months after the building marked its 200th anniversary.

Roberto Robadey, a spokesman for the Rio fire department, is quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying that the hydrants closest to the museum were not working and that firefighters had to get water from a nearby lake.

While Brazil's President Michael Temer-who the Guardian reports "has presided over cuts to science and education as part of a wider austerity drive" since taking office in a political "cold coup" by right-wing forces in 2016-called the losses "incalculable", it is precisely those cuts, say critics, which are ultimately to blame for the fire.

He continued in a statement, "Two hundred years of work, investigation and knowledge have been lost".

"I have also asked for a complete evaluation of the fire preparedness conditions of every other federal museum in the country", he said, "in order to verify the steps that need to be taken to avoid another tragedy".

We can hardly express how heartbreaking it is to see two centuries of scientific inquiry go up in flames so easily. But the deputy director suggested that the damage could be catastrophic, with most objects in the main building probably lost, except for some meteorites.

He said the museum, a former palace that was once the official resident of the royal family, had never had necessary support. The value of our history can not be measured by the damage to the building that housed the royal family during the empire.

The museum had also completed 200 years earlier in 2018.

The museum is Brazil's oldest. It was once the home of the Portuguese royal family.

The museum also housed an impressive collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts, including mummies, sarcophagi, statues and stone carvings.

Anthropologist Mércio Gomes said the fire was as bad or worse than the one that swept through the royal library in Alexandria, Egypt, in 48 B.C. - a symbol of great and awful loss of human knowledge. Firefighters have been on the scene for hours trying to extinguish the flames before they reach an area of the museum that contains flammable chemicals.

Brazilian Ministry of Culture Sergio Sa Leitao said the country "is in mourning".

The museum, Brazil's oldest, is managed by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the federal government has been struggling with huge budget imbalances in recent years.

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