Huge blaze at historic museum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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The National Museum stands gutted after an overnight fire in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, Sept. 3, 2018.

Brazil's oldest museum went up in flames Sunday night, with most of its 20 million artifacts believed to be destroyed, as per The Guardian.

"Two hundred years of work, investigation and knowledge have been lost", Temer said in a statement.

The building, which used to be the home of a Portuguese royal family, was converted into a museum 200 years ago.

Outside the entrance to the elegant park housing the 200-year-old former Imperial Palace, police in riot gear shot tear gas into a small, angry crowd that tried to enter, live TV images showed.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

The museum's deputy director, Luiz Fernando Dias Duarte, voiced "profound discouragement and enormous anger" as the treasured institution burned, accusing Brazilian authorities of a "lack of attention".

Firefighters had to truck water from a nearby lake, but the fire moved too quickly for their efforts to help. It's likely that the institution, which has seen a recent plunge in attendance amid the city's overall touristic decline, had no mechanisms in place for quelling the fire. And now the building is literally falling apart.

By morning the extent of the loss was still unclear.

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

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The fire, the cause of which remains unknown, broke out late Sunday at around 2230 GMT.

Marina Amaral, a Brazilian historical colorist, explained that in addition to the skull of Luzia, a collection of Egyptian mummies acquired by Emperor Dom Pedro I in the 1800s was also destroyed.

The museum was founded in 1818 by King Joao VI and is considered a jewel of Brazilian culture, housing more than 20 million valuable pieces.

Not only did the museum serve as a place to display major findings from the country's history, it also doubled as a research facility. No injuries have been reported yet and firefighting operations are under way.

Some of the priceless items in the museum's collection included a meteorite found in 1784, a 12,000-year-old skeleton and fossils of dinosaurs.

The museum had suffered significant budget cuts, leading it to close in 2015 because of maintenance issues.

"We Brazilians only have 500 years of history".

The last president who visited the National Museum was Juscelino Kubitschek in 1961, according to Amaral.

The Rio de Janeiro federal university did not immediately respond to a question on whether the museum was insured.The museum's pastel-yellow facade remained standing after the blaze, but a peek inside its giant windows revealed a roofless interior of blackened hallways and charred beams.

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