RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian officials on Monday blamed years of government cutbacks for an inferno that gutted the treasured National Museum, described by President Michel Temer as a "tragic" loss of knowledge and heritage.
Even before the embers had begun to cool Monday, grief over the huge cultural loss gave way to anger at funding cuts many say are threatening Brazil’s multi-cultural heritage.
The museum’s destruction caused a social media outcry and a crowd of around 500 protesters gathered to form a human chain around its still-smoldering remains.
"It’s not enough just to cry, it is necessary that the federal government, which has resources, helps the museum to reconstruct its history," director Alexandre Keller said in front of the devastated building.
The fire, the cause of which remains unknown, broke out late Sunday around 7.30pm. The majestic edifice was swept by flames after closing to the public asplumes of smoke shot into the night sky, while scores of firefighters battled into the early morning to control the blaze.
The fire had been largely smothered early Monday, but not before it had torn through hundreds of artifact-packed rooms in the 13,000-squ.m building. By morning, the extent of the losses were still unclear -- although a fire department spokesman said there were no reports of victims so far. — AFP