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Delhi: National Museum of Natural History gutted, 6 firemen injured

Nearly four-decade-old National Museum of Natural History, housing thousands of rare specimens of flora and fauna including a 160-million-year old fossil bone of the Indian Sauropod Dinosaur, at the heart of the capital was today ravaged in a massive blaze.

The fire first started on the top floor of the six-storey FICCI building which housed the museum in Mandi House area of Central Delhi at around 1.45 AM and rapidly spread to all other floors except the ground floor.

35 fire tenders were deployed to contain the blaze and six firemen were injured in the operation to douse the fire.

It is not immediately known what caused the fire at the museum, which was a popular destination for school children.

The fire was brought under control at around 6 AM.

Fire department officials said the fire safety mechanism of the museum was “not functioning” due to which the blaze could not be controlled.

The 38-year-old museum had a rich collection of herpetological specimen, specimen of tigers and leopards, preserved butterflies and pre-historic fossils and all of them have been gutted. The museum also had a 160-million-year old fossil bone of the Indian Sauropod Dinosaur.

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, who visited the spot, described the fire mishap as “unfortunate” and ordered a safety audit of all museums under his ministry.

“This is unfortunate. Museum of Natural History is a national heritage…This is a real loss. We will assess the loss and see how we can restore it and how the recovery plan can be made. There are plans to move to another area to create a new museum,” Javadekar said.

The project of constructing a new museum will be done at an estimated cost is Rs 225 crore and while the conceptual work is in progress, a committee has also been formed for the purpose, a statement by his Ministry said.

Delhi’s Deputy Chief Fire officer Rajesh Panwar said, “The fire safety systems were there but they were not functioning at the time when we tried to operate them. Had they been working, the fire would have been contained sooner.