Rio de Janeiro: A massive fire has engulfed Brazil’s 200-year-old National Museum in the city of Rio de Janeiro, putting its valuable collection of 20 million items, including human fossils and ancient Egyptian artefacts, under threat.
Firefighters and museum workers raced to save the historical relics from the blaze which broke out at 7.30pm (22:30 GMT) on Sunday.
The esteemed museum in the city’s north, which houses artefacts from Egypt, Greco-Roman art and some of the first fossils found in Brazil, was closed to the public at the time of the fire.
There were no reports of injuries, the museum said in a statement, and it wasn’t immediately clear how the fire began.
Roberto Robadey, a spokesman for the fire department, said 80 firefighters were battling the blaze and that by midnight local time it was “just about under control” and should be out within a few hours.
President Michel Temer called it “a sad day for all Brazilians”.
“Two hundred years of work, research and knowledge have been lost,” Temer said in a statement.
Firefighters got off to a slow start fighting the blaze because the two fire hydrants closest to the museum were not functioning. Instead, trucks had to be sent to get water from a nearby lake.
But some of the museum’s pieces had been spared as the museum authorities removed them with the help of museum workers
The museum was founded in 1818 by King Joao VI and is considered a jewel of Brazilian culture. 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.