Burned-out Rio museum ‘suffered years of under-funding’

3 Sep 18

A lack of public investment has been linked to the catastrophic fire that gutted the 200-year-old National Museum of Brazil yesterday.

The blaze tore through the museum in Rio de Janeiro after it closed on Sunday evening and it is believed that most of its 20 million items, ranging from archaeological finds to historical memorabilia, have been ruined.

Luiz Duarte, the museum’s vice-director, told Brazil’s Globo TV network that the museum had suffered years of neglect under numerous governments.

“We never got anything from the federal government,” he said.

“We recently finalised an agreement with [state-run development bank] BNDES for a massive investment, so that we could finally restore the palace and, ironically, we had planned on a new fire prevention system.”

The development bank said in June that it had agreed financing of 21.7m reais (£4.14m) to “physically restore the historic building” and to carry out work to “guarantee more security to its collections”.

The cause of the blaze is not yet known, according to local media. There have been no reports of injuries. 

But Roberto Robadey, spokesperson for Rio’s fire department, said the fire had “spread very quickly” due to the large amounts of “inflammable material”.

According to the Associated Press news agency, he said hydrants closest to the building were not working and that firefighters had to get water from a nearby lake.

The museum, located in a building that was once the home of the Portuguese royal family, celebrated its 200th anniversary this year.

Brazil’s president Michel Temer said on Twitter that it was a “sad day for all Brazilians” as “200 years of work, research and knowledge were lost”.

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