Following the fire that devastated the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday night, Brazilians have expressed their anger at the government for not doing more to protect some 20 million items that had been kept inside the buildings.
The museum found its home in the 200-year-old former palace of the Brazilian imperial family, but the old building had not been upgraded in recent years, leaving it without a sprinkler system or other necessary upgrades, with TRTworld describing the disaster as “tragedy foretold.
On top of the lack of sprinklers inside the building, when firefighters arrived on scene, they discovered that the fire hydrants nearby also weren’t functioning, and they were forced to collect water from a nearby lake to quell the flames.
On Monday, citizens took to the streets outside the museum to protest what had happened, angry that such a significant chunk of their history had been erased over a lack of funding from those in power. Riot police were forced to release tear gas into the crowd in an effort to disperse people attempting to get onto the grounds of the museum. A while later, they were finally allowed access “to the perimeter of the site,” which the protesters quickly surrounded in a “symbolic embrace.”
The discontent stems from deeper troubles brewing over the weakening economy in the country and tension over the upcoming presidential elections.
“Our community is very mobilized, and very indignant,” said Roberto Leher, rector of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, which administers the museum. “We all knew the building was vulnerable.”
Aside from the artifacts inside the building, the structure itself also suffered significant damage, with some of the walls and the ceilings razed to the ground as well. According to AOL, as much as 90 percent of the historical items inside the museum have been completely destroyed in the blaze. Items not held in the main building have survived.
Artifacts that were on display at the museum include such things as the first fossils ever found in Brazil, the largest meteorite found in the country, and mummies from ancient Egypt, as previously reported by the Inquisitr.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but is speculated to be the result of an electrical short-circuit or “a homemade paper hot-air balloon that may have landed on the roof.”
Engineers are still trying to determine if the building is safe to enter before forensic investigators and researchers will be able to enter the building to begin searching for answers.
President Michel Temer called it “a sad day for all Brazilians.”
“Two hundred years of work, investigation and knowledge have been lost,” he said.
On Monday, officials pledged almost $5 million to rebuild the museum, but it’s the artifacts lost from inside the building that were truly irreplaceable to the Brazilian people.