BRASILIA (Reuters) – A 200-year-old museum in Rio de Janeiro was hit on Sunday by a massive fire, images from television station Globo showed, threatening its collection of more than 20 million items ranging from archeological findings to historical memorabilia.
According to Globo’s website, there was no information yet on potential deaths, injuries, cause of the fire or extent of damage at Rio’s Museu Nacional.
The fire broke out after visiting hours and was still raging and appeared to be growing Sunday night.
Representatives from the fire department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It was the biggest natural history museum in Latin America. We have invaluable collections. Collections that are over 100 years old,” Cristiana Serejo, one of the museum’s vice directors, told the G1 news site.
Marina Silva, a former environment minister and candidate in October’s presidential elections said the fire was like “a lobotomy of the Brazilian memory”.
The museum, which is tied to the Rio de Janeiro federal university and the Education Ministry, was founded in 1818. It houses several landmark collections including Egyptian artifacts and the oldest human fossil found in Brazil.
Brazil’s president, Michel Temer, who has presided over cuts to science and education as part of a wider austerity drive, called the losses “incalculable”. “Today is a tragic day for the museology of our country,” he tweeted. “Two hundred years of work research and knowledge were lost.”