Many Brazilians are demanding answers, asking how so much of the country's heritage could have meant so little that the country's National Museum could go unprotected. The building had no fire system, despite its priceless collections.

The National Museum in Rio de Janeiro housed thousands of items related to the history of Brazil and other countries. It burned down on September 2, 2018.
The National Museum in Rio de Janeiro housed thousands of items related to the history of Brazil and other countries. It burned down on September 2, 2018. (Reuters)

Anger smouldered in Brazil on Monday a day after a fire destroyed the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, a cherished historical repository that lacked a sprinkler system and which had suffered years of financial neglect, making its destruction a "tragedy foretold."

Outside the entrance to the elegant park housing the 200-year-old former Imperial Palace, police in riot gear shot tear gas into a small, angry crowd that tried to enter, live TV images showed. Later, police granted access to the site's perimeter, which demonstrators surrounded in a symbolic "embrace."

President Michel Temer said it was "a sad day for all Brazilians."

"Two hundred years of work, investigation and knowledge have been lost," said Temer.

Many Brazilians are demanding answers, asking how so much of the country's heritage could have meant so little that it was unprotected.

TRT World's Craig Vermay has more. 

A tragedy waiting to happen

The rumbling tensions reflect a deeper anger as Brazil reels from a frail economy, widespread graft and rising violence ahead of an unpredictable presidential election in October.

"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."

Brazil's culture minister Sergio Leitao told the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper the blaze was likely caused by either an electrical short-circuit or a homemade paper hot-air balloon that may have landed on the roof. Launching such balloons is a long-held tradition in Brazil and they routinely cause fires.

TRT World's Reagan Des Vignes has more.

According to the museum's website, the building housed thousands of items related to the history of Brazil and other countries. The lost collections include artefacts from Egypt, Greco-Roman art and some of the first fossils found in Brazil.

Many of those collections came from members of Brazil's royal family.

Connected to the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, the museum has expositions that include anthropology, archaeology and palaeontology, among others.

Source: AP