Fire Engulfs National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro; 20 Million Artifacts May be Lost

Firefighters battling a blaze on Sunday at the 200-year-old National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. (Credit: Leo Correa/Associated Press)
Firefighters battling a blaze on Sunday at the 200-year-old National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. (Credit: Leo Correa/Associated Press)

A fire engulfed the National Museum of Brazil on Sunday night, ravaging the stately, 200-year-old museum in Rio de Janeiro and threatening the years of history encapsulated inside.

Aerial video posted by the television station Globo showed roaring flames and billowing smoke overtaking the large museum. Windows on multiple floors across the museum displayed a burning orange color, and the glow of the fire lit up the dark night sky.

The destruction to the building was significant, and it is unclear whether any historical artifacts had been saved. The museum housed a collection of more than 20 million items, including Egyptian mummies, Greco-Roman artifacts, dinosaur fossils and the oldest human fossil in the region, known as “Luzia.”

Nobody was believed to have been injured in the blaze, which started about 7:30 p.m. local time, when the museum was closed, fire officials said. Several hours later, firefighters were still working to put out the enormous fire.

Michel Temer, the president of Brazil, tweeted that it was “a sad day for all Brazilians.”

“The loss of the National Museum collection is incalculable for Brazil,” he wrote. “Two hundred years of work, research and knowledge have been lost.”

Mayor Marcelo Crivella of Rio de Janeiro said Sunday night in a message posted on Instagram that it was a “national duty” to rebuild the collection “from the ashes,” suggesting building replicas based on photos.

The museum, located in a public park and now tied to the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, turned 200 years old in June. It is the oldest scientific institution in Brazil and has large natural history and anthropology collections.

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SOURCE: Ernesto Londoño and Shasta Darlington
The New York Times