SAO PAULO – A fire devoured on Sunday the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, which houses some 20 million artifacts dating from the Brazilian imperial era and celebrates its 200-year anniversary this year.
The flames broke out around 19:30 local time (2230 GMT), when the museum was already closed and there were only four guards inside. However, no injuries were reported as the guards managed to escape the building in time, according to the museum.
The Fire Brigade continues trying to contain the fire, while authorities have reported that it is still not possible to point to the causes of the flames.
The ex-director of the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, Jose Perez Pombal, who was at the scene, sent EFE an audio file saying that no artifacts will survive the flame.
“There will be nothing left, the flames are very high and the fire is everywhere, the palace is going to burn down and also the collections, the mummies, everything,” he said.
“It’s over, I do not know if the institution will continue to exist after that,” he finished.
The deputy director of the institution, Luis Fernando Duarte, denounced that the lack of support and conscience from the public sector was the cause of this tragedy.
Brazilian President Michel Temer described the incident in an official statement as “a tragic day for the country’s museology.”
“It is incalculable for Brazil to lose the collection of the National Museum,” because “two hundred years of work, research and knowledge have been lost,” said Temer.
The National Museum of Rio de Janeiro, created by King John VI of Portugal on June 6, 1818, is considered the fifth largest in the world in terms of artifacts and includes collections of stuffed animals, indigenous utensils, mummies and fossils, among others.