RAW: Brazil's largest museum burning in massive blaze

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Brazil museum fire: Firefighters battle to save 20 million artefacts at Museu Nacional | Daily Star

A massive fire raced through Brazil's 200-year-old National Museum in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, probably destroying its collection of more than 20 million items, ranging from archaeological finds to historical memorabilia.

The majestic edifice stood engulfed in flames as plumes of smoke shot into the night sky, while some 20 fire brigades battled to control the blaze that erupted around Sunday evening.

Many Brazilians are posting under the hashtag, #lutopelomuseunacional (mourning for the national museum) to express their sadness and outrage regarding the major incident.

While Brazil's President Michael Temer-who the Guardian reports "has presided over cuts to science and education as part of a wider austerity drive" since taking office in a political "cold coup" by right-wing forces in 2016-called the losses "incalculable", it is precisely those cuts, say critics, which are ultimately to blame for the fire. "Two hundred years of work, research and knowledge have been lost", he said in a tweet Sunday.

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Luiz Duarte, another vice director, told TV Globo: "It is an unbearable catastrophe".

Firefighters work to contain a fire consuming the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro, one of the oldest in Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro. The cause of the fire is not yet known.

The National Museum of Brazil in Rio.

"We were able to remove a lot of things from inside with the help of workers of the museum", Roberto Robadey, a fire department spokesman, told Globo News.

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"This fire is what Brazilian politicians are doing to the people", said Rosana Hollanda, a 35-year-old high school teacher, who was crying Monday at the gates. He said steps are being taken to ensure this never happens to another one of their museums. After two adjacent hydrants were found to be dry, water trucks, with water from nearby lakes, had to be brought in. The museum had temporarily closed down in 2015 for lack of funding.

It houses several landmark collections including Egyptian artefacts and the oldest human fossil found in Brazil.

Asked by a reporter why such disasters don't happen at cultural institutions in other countries, Kellner, the museum director, replied: "Ask yourself that".

Ricardo Moraes / Reuters The National Mueseum recently celebrated its 200-year anniversary.

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