Tensions growing in Brazil following national museum fire

VIDEO: The museum houses Greco-Roman art, artifacts from Egypt and some of the first fossils found in Brazil.PlayABCNews.com
WATCH Brazil's 200-year-old National Museum engulfed in flames

In the wake of a devastating fire that raced through Brazil's National Museum and destroyed more than 20 million historical artifacts, the relics recovered could be counted on the fingers of one hand, according to Luiz Duarte, the museum's vice-director.

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The museum's structure was so badly damaged in the blaze that federal police are still not sure it's safe to enter the museum's charred structure.

PHOTO: The National Museum stands gutted after an overnight fire in Rio de Janeiro, Sept. 3, 2018. Mario Lobao/AP
The National Museum stands gutted after an overnight fire in Rio de Janeiro, Sept. 3, 2018.

"First, engineers are giving us enough guarantees on the structure of the building to make sure it will not collapse," a spokesperson for Brazilian federal police told ABC News.

The genesis of the fire remains a mystery, and it's unclear when Rio de Janeiro officials will reach and announce their determination of the cause of the blaze. A press conference was scheduled and then abruptly cancelled on Tuesday.

It's not just about our government neglecting our heritage -- we are used to it. It is about losing ourselves.

On Monday, Brazil's Minister of Culture, Sergio Leitao said that the fire was likely caused by either a short circuit, or a paper balloon that may have landed on the roof and caught fire.

PHOTO: People watch as a fire burns at the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, Sept. 2, 2018. Ricardo Moraes /Reuters
People watch as a fire burns at the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, Sept. 2, 2018.

Tensions between Brazil's government and its people were renewed in the wake of the inferno -- as hundreds of politicians, museum employees and local militants gathered outside the ruins of the museum on Tuesday amidst growing indignation at what many perceive to be a corrupt government, which cut funding for the museum in the midst of staggering World Cup and Olympics budgets.

After clashing with police on Tuesday, the protesters were granted access to the courtyard of the museum to give a symbolical "abra├žo"(hug) to their beloved museum.

PHOTO: This file photo taken on Sept. 20, 1999 of a reconstruction of the head of Luzia, the first Brazilian woman, during its presentation at the National Museum of History in Rio de Janeiro. Antonio Scorza/AFP/Getty Images
This file photo taken on Sept. 20, 1999 of a reconstruction of the head of 'Luzia,' 'the first Brazilian woman,' during its presentation at the National Museum of History in Rio de Janeiro.

But outrage and frustration were evident in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday.

"Our politicians involved in the elections are now trying to take advantage of this tragedy," said Marina Amaral, a Brazilian historical colorist. "I wonder where they were when this tragedy could have been avoided."

PHOTO: Police stand in the front of the National Museum of Brazil after a devastating fire, Sept. 3, 2018, in Rio de Janeiro. Buda Mendes/Getty Images
Police stand in the front of the National Museum of Brazil after a devastating fire, Sept. 3, 2018, in Rio de Janeiro.

Felipe Barroso, 29, an architecture student, said the museum fire robbed many Brazilians of their national identity.

"It's not just about our government neglecting our heritage -- we are used to it," he said. "It is about losing ourselves."

Among the historical items that survived the fire is an iron-nickel meteorite called Bendeg├│, discovered in 1784 and thought to be the largest meteorite ever recovered in Brazil.