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By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Flames tore through one of São Paulo’s most visited landmarks, the Portuguese Language Museum on Monday afternoon, leaving one person dead and halting rail and metro lines for thousands of commuters. More than one hundred firefighters with 37 fire trucks were at the scene to try to combat the fire, one of which died while trying to put out the fire.

Portuguese Language Museum on Monday afternoon, photo courtesy of Sao Paulo Fire Department.
Portuguese Language Museum on Monday afternoon, photo courtesy of São Paulo Fire Department.

According to the museum’s press office the causes of what started the blaze have not yet been determined. Fire officials, however, told reporters that the fire, which started on the first floor, may have started in a recently changed light fixture.

São Paulo governor, Geraldo Alckmin visited the site at the end of the afternoon. “I know of the fondness the population had for this museum, which translates the soul of the Brazilian people,” Alckmin was quoted as saying by O Globo. The governor promised to reconstruct the museum with the help of the private sector.

The building where the museum is housed dates back to early 1800’s and features multimedia exhibits that reconstruct the history and evolution of the Portuguese language from colonial times to the present day. According to the museum’s curator, Isa Ferraz most of the exhibits were digital and virtual, so that backups of the collections were made and will be easily recovered after the building is reconstructed.

With the fire, officials closed off nearby metro stops and the next door train station, leaving thousands of commuters to find other means of getting home Monday afternoon. Officials said there is a chance that the trepidation of the metro cars and trains could lead to the collapse of what is left of the building.

Metro and rail transportation in the area will only restart after city engineers have assessed the structural damage to the building.

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