National Museum of Brazil destroyed by fire

A huge fire has gutted the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. It is believed that most of the 20 million items in the country's most important scientific and historic institution have been destroyed in the blaze, the cause of which is unknown.

The 200-year old museum was overtaken by a fire that started on Sunday evening and spread rapidly across a building originally constructed as a palace for the Portuguese royal family. The museum was home to Egyptian and Greco-Roman artefacts, the oldest human fossil in the Americas, countless items of geological and anthropological significance as well as an extensive collections of indigenous literature and artefacts. 

Questions have been raised about how a site of such cultural significance could have fallen prey so quickly to fire, with some reports that nearby hydrants did not supply firefighters with adequate water. Commentators were quick to point the finger at austerity policies and corruption for the negligence of safety measures. 

Anthropologists, scientists and spokespeople for Brazil's indigenous population are among those to have expressed dismay at the catastrophe, with the journalist Leandro Beguoci writing on Twitter that 'few things symbolise the crumbling of Brazil more than the fire of our oldest museum. A tragedy like this has individual culprits, of course. But it's also a collective work. Destroying our Louvre is a feat.'

4 September 2018