Raging fire tears through historic Brazil museum

A dream

Brazil's National Museum in Rio de Janeiro was engulfed by a violent fire on Sunday, putting in jeopardy millions of the country's most valuable treasures.

The fire began at 7.30pm local time and quickly spread throughout the building, and on Sunday evening the flames did not appear to be reducing.

President Michel Tremer said on Sunday that the loss was "incalculable to Brazil".

"Two hundred years of work, research and knowledge were lost", President Temer said after the fire.

"It is an unbearable catastrophe", museum vice-director Luiz Duarte told TV Globo.

The National Museum of Brazil, founded in 1818 and representing the heart of the nation's historic, anthropologic, and scientific endeavors, is effectively no more. It also once served as the residence of the Portuguese royal family. As of writing, no deaths or injuries have been reported.

The museum is housed in the Paço de São Cristóvão, which was home to the Brazilian imperial family for much of the 19th century. He said steps are being taken to ensure this never happens to another one of their museums. The funding cuts were particularly acute this year, with the museum receiving just 98,115 reals between January and August.

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A firefighter in front of the Museum of Rio de Janeiro, one of the oldest in Brazil.

The museum also housed the skeleton of a dinosaur found in the Minas Gerais region along with the largest meteorite discovered in Brazil, which was named "Bendego" and weighed 5.3 tons.

"Look at the irony, the money is now there, but we ran out of time", he said. Brazil's culture minister Sergio Leitao told the Estado de S.Paulo newspaper that the blaze was likely caused by either an electrical short-circuit or a homemade paper hot-air balloon that may have landed on the roof.

Asked by a reporter why such disasters don't happen at cultural institutions in other countries, Kellner, the museum director, replied: "Ask yourself that".

Roberto Leher, the rector of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, of which the museum is a part, told reporters Monday that the building needed an upgrade to its electrical and water systems and a new fire prevention plan.

Some Brazilians saw the fire as a metaphor for their country's traumas as it battles terrifying levels of violent crime and the effects of a recession that has left more than 12 million people unemployed.

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