In Brief

Fire destroys National Museum of Brazil

More than 20 million items believed to have been lost to the flames

A large fire has engulfed the 200-year-old National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, filling the skies with smoke and flames as firefighters worked through the night to try to save its priceless collection.

The fire, whose cause is currently unknown, reportedly broke out after the museum had closed for the day. 

“Two hundred years of work, investigation and knowledge have been lost,” Brazilian president Michel Temer said, adding that it was “a sad day for all Brazilians”.

The director of the National Museum, Paulo Knauss, told local media that the fire was “a tragedy”.

The BBC says the museum housed more than 20 million items in its collection, including “important dinosaur bones and a 12,000-year-old human skeleton of a woman - the oldest ever found in the Americas”.

Roberto Robadey, a spokesman for the fire department, said “80 firefighters were working to put out the blaze and that some pieces had been spared”, the Associated Press reports.

“We were able to remove a lot of things from inside with the help of workers of the museum,” Robadey said.

The building, once the residence of the Portuguese royal family during the colonial era, was converted into a museum 200 years ago.

Staff at the museum had reportedly been complaining about the condition of the building, calling on the government to fund urgently needed repairs.

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