Police beat protesters amid anger over Rio museum blaze

A massive fire on Sunday ripped through Rio de Janeiro's treasured National Museum, one of Brazil's oldest, in what the nation's president said was a "tragic" loss of knowledge and heritage.

Firetrucks sit parked outside the National Museum after it was gutted by an overnight fire in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, Sept. 3, 2018.

The fire in the 200-year-old museum began after it closed to the public on Sunday, with most of its collection, including fossil, artworks and documents spanning documents believed to be destroyed. Some parts of the collection were held at others sites and thus spared.

The fire was like "a lobotomy of the Brazilian memory", said Marina Silva, a former environment minister and candidate in the upcoming presidential election, according to the Guardian. Water trucks were brought in and water used from a nearby lake. But the deputy director suggested that the damage could be catastrophic, with most objects in the main building probably lost, except for some meteorites.

A spokesperson for the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, which supervises the museum, told ABC News that the museum was only receiving 60 percent of its budget this year.

Vice Director Luiz Fernando Dias Duarte told Brazilian TV that the risk of fire was so present in museum employees' minds that they would unplug everything in their offices every day, and that they had recently been given training from firefighters on how to handle an emergency.

The museum appears to have been nearly completely gutted in the fire that began Sunday night.

Smoke was still rising from the burned-out hulk of Brazil's National Museum after a large fire broke out.

There had been complaints about the dilapidated state of the museum.

He said that no one was in the building to put the training into practice when the museum caught fire on Sunday night.

The Rio de Janeiro federal university did not immediately respond to a question on whether the museum was insured.The museum's pastel-yellow facade remained standing after the blaze, but a peek inside its giant windows revealed a roofless interior of blackened hallways and charred beams.

The building, which opened in 1818, was once the home of the Portuguese royal family.

We can hardly express how heartbreaking it is to see two centuries of scientific inquiry go up in flames so easily. Stonework was cracked, and lawns appeared untended.

"They're burning our history, and they're burning our dreams".

But Duarte also said that politicians deserve some blame for not supporting the museum, which had fallen into significant disrepair due to lack of funding.

"The loss of the collection of the National Museum is incalculable", he said.

Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

  • Rogelio Becker