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Funding cuts blamed for devastating Rio museum blaze

FUNDING cuts were blamed today for the devastating fire at Brazil’s national museum which destroyed one of the largest anthropology and natural history collections in the Americas yesterday.

Brazil’s right-wing President Michel Temer, who came to power after ousting Dilma Rousseff in a legislative coup in 2016 said it was a “sad day” for the country, with almost 200 years of research and knowledge lost.

Culture Minister Sergio Sa Leitao promised that restoration efforts would begin, but said it was a “tragedy that could have been avoided.”

Museum deputy director Luiz Fernando Dias Duarte blasted the government, accusing it of a “lack of attention” to numerous complaints over the state of the museum.

“We fought years ago, in different governments, to obtain resources to adequately preserve everything that was destroyed today.”

The museum is the oldest in Brazil, established in 1818 with the aim of promoting scientific research via access to its artefacts.

But funding has been slashed, with the state of Rio de Janiero running a deficit of 8 per cent of GDP.

Firefighters explained that the museum lacked a sprinkler system and that fire hydrants outside the building were empty.

Rio fire chief Roberto Robadey said: “In an ideal world, we would have many things that we don’t have here.”

Staff at the museum say they had consistently appealed for support but had to rely on the goodwill of the public — a crowdfunding scheme was set up earlier this year after a dinosaur exhibition was attacked by termites.

Renato Rodriguez Cabral, a teacher in the geology and paleontology department, said the museum’s decline did not happen overnight, branding it “a tragedy foretold.

“For Brazilian history and science, this is a complete tragedy. There is no way to recover what was lost,” he said.

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