Fire fighters in Rio de Janeiro are battling a fierce blaze that has engulfed the city’s 200-year-old National Museum. The esteemed museum houses millions of items related to Brazil’s history.

    

Watch video00:26

Brazil’s National Museum engulfed by fire

Brazil’s National Museum in Rio de Janeiro was engulfed by a violent fire on Sunday, putting in jeopardy millions of the country’s most valuable treasures.

Fire fighters in northern Rio de Janeiro continued to battle the blaze into the early hours. It remained unclear what caused the fire.

Television footage showed the fierce flames light up the night sky, as thick plumes of smoke rose out of the burning building.

Brazilian media, citing security officials, said no one was believed to be injured. The museum had already closed by the time the fire broke out in the evening.

In a statement, Brazil’s President Michel Temer said it was “a sad day for all Brazilians.”

“Two hundred years of work, investigation and knowledge have been lost,” Temer added.

Michel Temer

@MichelTemer

Incalculável para o Brasil a perda do acervo do Museu Nacional. Foram perdidos 200 anos de trabalho, pesquisa e conhecimento. O valor p/ nossa história não se pode mensurar, pelos danos ao prédio que abrigou a família real durante o Império. É um dia triste para todos brasileiros

The National Museum, which is tied to the Rio de Janeiro federal university, dates back to 1818 and is one of the oldest museums in South America. The building houses more than 20 million historical artefacts, not just from Brazil but also Egypt, Greece and Rome’s ancient civilizations.

Before becoming a museum, the building served as the residence for the Portuguese Royal Family and later Brazil’s imperial family.

However, despite the building’s rich history, the National Museum’s vice director Luiz Fernando Dias Duarte told Brazil’s Globo news broadcaster that the museum had suffered from chronic underfunding. “Everybody wants to be supportive now,” he said. “We never had adequate support.”

According to reports, Brazil’s state-run development bank, the BNDES, has already pledged some 22 million reais ($5.4 million, €4.7 million) to help “physically restore the historic building.”

Brazil is also struggling to emerge from its worst recession in decades, which was spurred by extensive government mismanagement and corruption, coupled with a steep fall in oil prices.

Watch video05:36

Brazil’s faltering economy

dm/aw (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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COURTESY: DW

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