Massive Fire Engulfs Brazil's National Museum, Over 20M Artifacts Lost

Massive Fire Engulfs Brazil's National Museum, Over 20M Artifacts Lost

A huge fire has gutted the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, the oldest scientific institution in the country.

There were no reports of injuries, the museum said, and it wasn't immediately clear how the fire began.

President Michel Temer said in a statement Monday that the loss of the building - where the country's royal family once lived - to fire late Sunday is an "incalculable loss for Brazil".

Luiz Duarte, a vice-director of the museum, told TV Globo the loss of the museum was an "unbearable catastrophe", according to The Guardian.

Late past year, after a termite attack shuttered a room hosting the bones of the Maxakalisaurus dinosaur, the National Museum was forced to turn to a crowdfunding site to seek funds for reopening the exhibit.

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Renato Rodriguez Cabral, a teacher in the geology and paleontology department, said the museum's decline did not happen overnight.

Roberto Leher, the rector of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, of which the museum is a part, told reporters that the building needed an upgrade to its electrical and water systems and a new fire-prevention plan. "Collections that are over 100 years old", Cristiana Serejo, one of the museum's vice-directors, told the G1 news site. They have attempted to push through the gates surrounding the grounds and were calling on the government to rebuild the property.

The funding cuts were particularly acute this year, with the museum receiving just 98,115 reais ($32,750) between January and August.

Using her skull, researchers at Britain's University of Manchester had managed to produce a digital image of her face, which was used as the base for a sculpture displayed in the museum that went up in smoke on Sunday (Sept 2) night.

The museum, located in the city's north near the Maracana football stadium, was closed to the public when the fire sparked from a yet unknown cause.

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"The money spent on each one of those stadiums - a quarter of that would have been enough to make this museum safe and resplendent", he said in an interview in front of the smouldering ruins aired on Brazilian television.

The museum was also home to one of the largest collections of artefacts produced by various indigenous peoples of the Americas, dating back to long before any Europeans set foot on the South American continent. "History can not be measured by the damage to the building that housed the royal family".

Among the 20 million artifacts burned to a crisp were the skeletal remains oldest woman discovered in Latin America, a 12,000-year-old cadaver scientists had named "Luzia". The museum had mummies, meteorites, insects and various fossils.

"Let this free us from the ignorance that fails to appreciate culture, science and our national identity", he wrote on Twitter.

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