Flames consume Brazil’s national museum in Rio

IMPERIAL TREASURE::The museum holds antiquities from ancient Egypt and the Roman empire from Brazil’s imperial family, but lacked funds for fire prevention


Tue, Sep 04, 2018 - Page 7

A huge fire engulfed Brazil’s 200-year-old National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, lighting up the night sky with towering flames as firefighters and museum workers raced to save historical relics from the blaze.

The esteemed museum, which houses artifacts 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, which broke out at 7:30pm on Sunday, it said in a statement.

There were no reports of injuries and it was not immediately clear how the fire began, the museum said..

Roberto Robadey, a spokesman for the fire department, said that 80 firefighters were battling the blaze and that by midnight, it was “just about under control” and should be out within a few hours.

Brazilian President Michel Temer said it was “a sad day for all Brazilians.”

“Two hundred years of work, investigation and knowledge have been lost,” Temer said in a statement.

According to its Web site, the museum has a vast collection related to the history of Brazil and other countries, and that many of its collections came from members of the Brazilian imperial family.

Firefighters got off to a slow start fighting the blaze because the two fire hydrants closest to the museum were not functioning, Robadey said.

Instead, trucks had to be sent to get water from a nearby lake, he said, but added that some of the museum’s pieces were spared.

“We were able to remove a lot of things from inside with the help of workers of the museum,” Robadey told Web site Globo News.

Connected to the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, the museum has expositions that include anthropology, archeology and paleontology, among others.

Museum vice director Luiz Fernando Dias Duarte told Globo News that the museum was chronically underfunded.

“Everybody wants to be supportive now. We never had adequate support,” he said.

Latin America’s largest country has struggled to emerge from its worst recession in decades. The state of Rio de Janeiro has been particularly hard-hit over the past few years, thanks to a combination of falling global prices of oil, one of its major revenue sources, mismanagement and massive corruption.

Just over a month before national elections, even before the flames were put out, the fire was leading to recriminations about dilapidated infrastructure and budget deficits in the city, which hosted the 2016 Summer Olympics.

“Unfortunately, given the financial straits of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and all the other public universities the last three years, this was a tragedy that could be seen coming,” tweeted Sustainability Network party presidential candidate Marina Silva, one of the main contenders.

On Instagram, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Marcelo Crivella called on the country to rebuild.

“It’s a national obligation to reconstruct it from the ashes, recompose every eternal detail of the paintings and photos. Even if they are not original, they continue to be a reminder of the royal family that gave us independence, the [Portuguese] empire, and the first constitution and national unity,” he said.