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An insurmountable fire struck the National Museum of Brazil, the country’s custodian of history and culture in Rio de Janeiro. The fire started on late Sunday evening inside the 200-year-old museum, and the flames quickly tore through the 13,000-square-meter structure, burning down 90 per cent of the collection.
The timing for the fire is estimated to be about 7.30pm (22.30 GMT) after the museum’s closing hours on Sunday, September 3, and the cause of the fire is still unknown. The Brazil Museum is known as the oldest scientific institution in the country, and was known to be a repository of archeology, natural history, anthropology, and with 20 million items in its collection. This included rare objects such as fossils, dinosaur bones, a set of Egyptian mummies and a 12,000-year-old human skeleton of the oldest woman found in the Americas. There were also art and artifacts from Greco-Roman times and Egypt. The fire, however, was of such a massive scale that has reportedly charred or affected close to 90 per cent of the items in the museum.
The reactions to the fire and cultural loss have been grave in both the art world and the public eye. Brazil's minister of culture, Sergio Sa Leitao, said that, “The loss is irreparable. Culture is grieving. The country is grieving.”
"This is a tragic day for Brazil," President Michel Temer said in a statement. "Two hundred years of work and research and knowledge are lost." "The loss of the collection of the National Museum is incalculable," he said.
Only the zoology collection in the museum's library, the herbarium and some other ceramic and mineral artifacts, which were housed in a different building, survived the fire. The most important piece of the remaining collection is the Bendego meteorite, which weighs over 5.6 tons, the largest meteorite ever found in Brazil.
In the wake of this tragedy, the government of Brazil is now shouldering on. In a move to look on to the future, the government is now seeking funding from banks and companies to help rebuild the National Museum.
With inputs by PTI
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