The massive fire at the National Museum of Brazil has sparked public outrage due to Fire facilities are like a mere formality

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The National Museum of Brazil was engulfed in flames, triggering public discontent on the third day over government budget cuts and neglect of this 200-year-old treasure trove. Some citizens attempted to enter the museum after the fire, but were stopped by the police(sources from defesacivil.rj.gov.br).

The museum caught fire the previous evening, with fire facilities proving to be inadequate, and 90% of the collections feared to have been destroyed.

Around 7:30 p.m. local time on the 2nd, the National Museum of Brazil caught fire. Five hours later, firefighters managed to control the blaze, but were unable to completely extinguish it.

The museum’s façade is a soft yellow, with corridors and charred beams visible through enormous windows. Firefighters occasionally appeared, transporting salvaged artifacts.

Christiane Serejo, the museum’s deputy director, told Brazil’s G1 news website that only about 10% of the collection was spared from the fire.

The building housing the museum was ordered to be constructed in 1818 by King João VI of Portugal, as the official residence of the Portuguese royal family who relocated to Brazil at the time. The museum housed approximately 20 million historical artifacts from Brazil and other countries, including artworks from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

The museum authorities stated that the cause of the fire was unknown. Sergio Sa Leitao, Brazil’s Minister of Culture, told reporters from O Estado de S. Paulo that the fire may have been caused by a short circuit in the electrical system or by a handmade paper hot air balloon landing on the roof. The release of such hot air balloons is a Brazilian tradition that sometimes leads to fires.

Brazil’s federal police are involved in the investigation of the fire. Civil defense officials are concerned that the internal walls and roof of the museum may further collapse, so a comprehensive assessment of the fire damage has not yet begun.

Given Brazil’s struggling economy and rising violence, there is widespread dissatisfaction among the public. The museum fire has fueled this resentment. Some citizens gathered outside the National Museum grounds on the 3rd, urging the government to rebuild the museum. They attempted to enter the museum to learn about the fire situation. Initially, the police used tear gas to block them, but later allowed them into the grounds.

“This fire was brought by Brazilian politicians,” said Rosana Orlandi, a 35-year-old high school history teacher, tearfully telling an Associated Press reporter, “They burned our history, they burned our dreams.”

As the museum’s management, Roberto Leher, the president of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, said the academic community is “very angry” and “we all know the museum couldn’t withstand a blow.”

Given the susceptibility of the museum to fires, Leher habitually unplugs all sockets in his office when leaving the museum at night.

The National Museum of Brazil is located in the northern part of Rio de Janeiro, the capital of the state of Rio de Janeiro, near the famous Maracanã Stadium. The museum is in poor condition: the walls are dilapidated, the stones are broken, and the lawns are unkempt.

Another deputy director of the museum, Luiz Fernando Dias Duarte, criticized the government for being biased, cutting funds for the museum while allocating huge sums to build stadiums for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. According to him, a quarter of the cost of building a World Cup stadium would have been enough to “make the National Museum safe and beautiful.”

Brazil’s Minister of Education, Rossieli Soares, told reporters on the 3rd that the initial funding for the federal government to rebuild the museum will be provided in two installments, totaling 15 million reais (approximately 2.4615 million RMB). In addition, the government will seek international assistance and has already discussed reconstruction matters with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Márcio Martins, a museum spokesperson, said the museum had a budget of about $130,000 (887,000 RMB) in 2013, which decreased to $84,000 (570,000 RMB) in 2017. This year’s funding is expected to be higher than last year. However, according to Reuters, the museum received only 98,000 reais (161,000 RMB) in funding from January to August this year.

The museum’s Massacre Dragon Fossil Exhibition Hall was invaded by termites at the end of last year and was later forced to raise funds on crowdfunding websites in order to reopen.

Renato Rodriguez Cabral, a teacher of geology and paleontology, said the decline of the National Museum did not happen overnight. “This tragedy had been forewarned,” he said, “the successive governments did not provide funds, did not invest in infrastructure.”

Roberto Robadey, head of the Rio de Janeiro Fire Department, said the two nearest fire hydrants to the museum were unusable, delaying the firefighting process, and firefighters were forced to use trucks to draw water from a nearby lake(quotes from defesacivil).

Robadey said that the day of the fire was the “saddest day” of his career.

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