Photography: Igor Angelkorte

Large parts of the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro have been destroyed following a huge blaze in the 200-year-old building.

The cause of the fire remains unclear, but it raged all Sunday night as firefighters pumped water from a nearby lake to try and get it under control. Although there’s no word on whether the building is salvageable, it’s certain that much of the museum’s 20 million-strong collection of artefacts has been damaged. This included the oldest human skeleton found in Latin America, known as Luzia, several Egyptian mummies, and some of the first fossils discovered in Brazil.

The museum was set up in 1818, but it wasn’t until 1892 that it took over its current building, the Paço de São Cristóvão, which was once home to the Portuguese royal family. Speaking to Brazilian TV network Globo, Luiz Duarte, vice director at the institution, described the fire as ‘an unbearable catastrophe’.

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