A huge fire has broken out at the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, the oldest scientific institution in the country.
Firefighters are tackling the blaze at the building, which contains more than 20 million items in its collection.
There have so far been no reports of any injuries in Sunday’s fire.
The museum, which once served as the residence for the Portuguese royal family, celebrated its 200-year anniversary earlier this year.
BREAKING: The National Museum of #Brazil in #Rio is completely consumed in fire. Founded in 1818, the museum is the holder of over 20 million items, including mummies, meteorites, insects, & fossils. So sad to see history in flames 🙁
— Justin Fleenor 🔁 (@JustinFleenor) September 3, 2018
Brazil’s oldest and most important historical and scientific museum has been consumed by fire, and much of its archive of 20m items is believed to have been destroyed.
The fire at Rio de Janeiro’s 200-year-old National Museum began after it closed to the public on Sunday and was still raging during the night. There have been no reports of injuries, but the loss to Brazilian science, history and culture is incalculable, two of its vice-directors said.
It wasn’t immediately clear how the fire began.
“It was the biggest natural history museum in Latin America. We have invaluable collections. Collections that are over 100 years old,” Cristiana Serejo, one of the museum’s vice directors, told the G1 news site.
The museum was part of Rio’s Federal University but had fallen into disrepair in recent years. Its impressive collections included items brought to Brazil by Dom Pedro I – the Portuguese prince regent who declared the then-colony’s independence from Portugal – Egyptian and Greco-Roman artefacts, “Luzia”, a 12,000 year-old skeleton and the oldest in the Americas, fossils, dinosaurs, and a meteorite found in 1784. Some of the archive was stored in another building but much of the collection is believed to have been destroyed.
Luiz Duarte, another vice-director, told TV Globo: “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.” TV Globo also reported that some firefighters did not have enough water to battle the blaze.
Brazil’s president, Michel Temer, who has presided over cuts to science and education as part of a wider austerity drive, called the losses “incalculable”. “Today is a tragic day for the museology of our country,” he tweeted. “Two hundred years of work research and knowledge were lost.”