The Museu Nacional (National Museum of Brazil) caught on fire Sunday night taking with it the historical museum’s collection of more than 20 million items ranging from Egyptian artifacts to Brazil’s oldest known human fossil.
According to The Express, the fire began around 7:30 p.m. local time in Rio de Janeiro and quickly spread engulfing the entire building. The blaze is not yet under control and authorities don’t know yet know how the sparks began.
No casualties have been reported, but nearby residents are being warned that the building, which is at least three stories high, could collapse. Firefighters have been on the scene for hours trying to extinguish the flames before they reach an area of the museum that contains flammable chemicals.
The over 200-year-old museum, linked to the Rio de Janeiro federal university and the Education Ministry, was founded in 1818.
In a statement, President Michel Temer said the loss of the museum and its contents was "a sad day for all Brazilians." He added, “Two hundred years of work, investigation and knowledge have been lost,” said Temer.
Tod Swanson, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Arizona State University who specializes in religious traditions and language in the Amazon said of the fire on Facebook: "History is in the land and in the people but a major repository of Amazonian history and archives burning to the ground tonight."
Brazil's Portuguese museum burned down in 2015 as well as a historical building within the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro which, built in 1841. Many Brazilians are posting under the hashtag, #lutopelomuseunacional (mourning for the national museum) to express their sadness and outrage regarding the major incident.