A huge fire engulfed Brazil's 200-year-old museum, lighting up the night sky with towering flames as firefighters and museum workers raced to save historical relics from the blaze.
"ICOM and all its affiliates are deeply saddened by the fire which engorged the National Museum Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, which destroyed the museum's collection".
Roberto Robadey, a spokesman for the fire department, said firefighters got off to a slow start fighting the blaze because the two fire hydrants closest to the museum were not functioning.
Luiz Fernando Dias Duarte, the deputy director, noted another irony: He said museum officials were seeking renovation funds in 2013, at the same time that Brazil was spending millions to build stadiums for the World Cup, which it hosted the following year.
The natural history and anthropology museum was founded in 1818 by King Joao VI and is considered a jewel of Brazilian culture, with more than 20 million valuable pieces to its name.
Late a year ago, after a termite attack shuttered a room hosting the bones of the Maxakalisaurus dinosaur, the National Museum was forced to turn to a crowdfunding site to seek funds for reopening the exhibit.
Researchers, students and others who worked in the museum, where 20 million archives were likely destroyed, huddled in groups outside, consoling one another and wiping away tears. No injuries have been reported yet and firefighting operations are under way.
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Education Minister Rossieli Soares said global help was also being sought and talks with the UN's cultural body, Unesco, were under way.
The museum also housed a comprehensive collection on Brazilian history, from Portuguese colonization in the 1500s until independence in the 1800s.
A fire that almost destroyed all of Brazil's National Museum has been blamed on the funding cuts. The funding cuts were particularly acute this year, with the museum receiving just 98,115 reais between January and August.
It housed the important remains of Luzia, the 12,000 year-old skeleton of the oldest human remains found in the region.
It is not known what the extent of the damage is, nor what the cause of the fire is. Officials in the country said the lack of funding left the museum with little support. He said the group tried to identify in the dark the most irreplaceable objects, but said they only saved a "minuscule portion of the heritage that was lost".
The museum is Brazil's oldest.
The now-destroyed building housing the museum was the handsome Saint Christopher's Palace, once home to the Brazilian Imperial Family. The Museum has assembled one of America's largest collections of minerals, fossils, mummies and Indian dishes. "We have to reconstruct our National Museum".