A massive fire has destroyed more than 200 years of artifacts that were housed in Brazil’s National Museum, and heartbroken residents are pointing to budget cuts and poor maintenance as the culprit for the tragic loss.
More than 20 million artifacts were destroyed when a massive fire engulfed the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, sparking protests as residents condemn the government for failing to prevent this devastating tragedy.
The images were heartbreaking, and the scene was tragic as fire engulfed the 200-year-old museum. While the outer structure remains standing, officials who have surveyed the inside of the museum fear that 90 percent of its artifacts have been destroyed.
The National Museum proudly housed the oldest skeleton in the Americas, rare dinosaur fossils and countless indigenous artifacts.
In a statement, National Museum Director Alexander Kellner said, “It doesn’t help just to cry. It’s necessary for all the authorities that have the resources, specifically the federal government, to help the National Museum put its history back together.”
The fire started Sunday evening and raged through the night as firefighters reported that attempts to contain the massive blaze were delayed because two nearby hydrants were dry.
Heartbroken residents are now blaming the government for recent budget cuts in the name of austerity, and for failing to prepare for the possibility of a fire. Dozens of members of the public gathered outside of the museum to assess the damage, with riot police reportedly resulting to using tear gas on the crowd at one point.
The public is also accusing the government of prioritizing politics over culture and education, with recent major expenses including the 2016 Olympics in Rio, which cost the country $13.1 billion.
The current administration is being criticized for failing to value Brazil’s history before this devastating loss and the museum’s budget was lowered from $130,000 in 2013 to $84,000 in 2017.
A director from the National Museum revealed that after months of debate, the Brazilian government’s development bank had recently agreed to a funding plan that included a fire prevention project – a long-awaited deal that is now too little, too late.
Ultimately, no matter what the estimate is for restoring Brazil’s National Museum, the cost of the lost artifacts is far greater than anything money can buy, and many citizens are now blaming their government for an immeasurable loss that they believe should have been prevented.