Nearly 20 million items feared destroyed after a blaze roared through Rio de Janeiro’s National Museum on Sunday, in an inferno that Brazilian officials and scientists are describing as an unbearable erasure of human history.
The museum, which celebrated its 200th anniversary this year, housed priceless items of global and regional history, stretching from a several-ton meteorite to dinosaur bones to items kept by Dom Pedro I, who declared Brazil independent from Portugal in 1825.
That makes the museum a few years older than the country in which it was founded.
President Michel Tremer said the loss was “incalculable to Brazil” and has directed the museum to be rebuilt using public and private funds, he said Monday. The museum is the biggest natural history museum in Latin America.
“It is an unbearable catastrophe. It is 200 years of this country’s heritage. It is 200 years of memory. It is 200 years of science. It is 200 years of culture, of education,” Luiz Duarte, a vice-director of the museum, told TV Globo.
It was not clear how the fire started. Duarte blamed the government for poor funding and outdated protection. A fire prevention system was set to be installed but came too late, he said.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Alex Horton