From: Guilherme Ramos da Silva Muricy
Subject: Re: Rio Museum
Thank you all very much for your kind and warm messages of support, we really appreciated it in this terrible moment. We are totally devastated by this tragedy and we are still recovering from the shock of seeing Brazil's most popular museum and our beloved working place being destroyed. The scientific, cultural and historical losses are huge. Thousands of type specimens were lost, especially of the entomology and arachnology collections, together with millions of unique itens of these and the anthropological, geological and palaeontological collections. Some people lost 40 years of hard work.
Fortunately the Library, the Botany and Vertebrate Zoology departments, the Porifera and Cnidaria laboratories, and some invertebrate collections including Porifera are located in separate buildings and were not touched by the fire. However, the energy in our building was cut off, and it is located so close to the palace that the access is now forbidden, because parts of the remaining walls and structures are still falling down. We have no idea when we will be able to work in our labs again, we can only hope it won't take too long.
But the worst thing is to see our colleagues who lost their whole labs and collections at once, and their students who lost all the specimens of their theses. Our first step is now to find place for them in the remaining labs - for instance, we will share the Porifera labs with the team of the Malacology lab, and so on.
We still don't know the cause of the fire, but the anti-fire measures and equipments were totally inefficient. The sprinklers and alarms didn't work, and there was almost no water in the hydrants in the first 40 min! All floors, roof and furniture were made of wood and there were no fire-cutting doors, so the flames spread very quickly.
It was an incredible luck that it happened on a Sunday night, when there were no visitors or any staff inside the building except for four security guys, so nobody was killed or injured. If it had happened during the working hours or just three hours before, tens or of people would probably have died, including many children. The tragedy would have been much worse.
Fernando and Eduardo already told you most of the story, but I must add that they demonstrated a lot of heroism in this episode. As soon as he heard about the fire, Fernando and some other members of the staff ran immediately to the museum and entered the building along with the firefighters to remove specimens and equipments from some labs while the fire consumed other rooms. They managed to save many type specimens of molluscs and crustaceans, and they left the building just 20 min before the upper floors collapsed over these labs.
In the next morning, while the main building was still in risk of collapsing and with parts of the walls falling down along the way, Eduardo and a few others volunteered to enter our energy-less building to check the situation in our labs and to remove the material in our freezers to other labs, especially the samples used by our students in their theses. Like Fernando, he put his life at risk to save the work of others.
So that's is the kind of heroic / crazy / stupid people we have here. I assure you that we will make all possible efforts to build up a new museum and to keep trying to make science in this poor country. Your help will be greatly appreciated, but we are still trying to figure out where to start. Donations of laboratory equipments and biological specimens of most invertebrate groups would probably be useful to start making new collections and labs to replace those lost in the fire. So maybe one way to help could be to ask your colleagues curators of entomology, malacology and arachnology collections to send us some specimens, if possible. It would be a great motivation for our specialists on these groups to begin rebuilding their collections.
We will soon let you know of others things you may help. For the time being, your friendship and solidarity are already a great help for us.