The National Museum of Natural History is seen engulfed in fire at Mandi house on April 26, 2016 in New Delhi. (Sipa via AP Images)
The National Museum of Natural History is seen engulfed in fire at Mandi house on April 26, 2016 in New Delhi. (Sipa via AP Images)

NEW DELHI (Diya TV) — Tuesday morning, security personnel from India’s National Museum of Natural History called emergency services to report a fire on the top floor of the building. Flames spread throughout the six-story building quickly, 35 fire engines and dozens more firefighters were called to fight the blaze.

“The fire began on the top floor and spread to four floors below. We used six cars with hydraulic platforms to douse the fire in the top floors,” Deputy Chief Fire Officer Rajesh Pawar tells the Indian Express. “[The] other 30 teams were fighting the flames from within the building interiors.”

No employees or visitors were trapped inside of the building during the fire, but while they were fighting the fire, six emergency responders were reportedly treated for smoke inhalation. “The wooden partitions to separate different wings of the museum on each of the four floors fed the fire,” says Pawar. “The specimens, the stuffed animals and the chemicals some specimens were preserved in were all highly combustible. That is why the fire spread so rapidly.”

Established in 1972, the museum has been beloved by multiple generations of schoolchildren in New Delhi, who visit the museum’s exhibits featuring stuffed big cats and a fossil from a 160 million-year old sauropod dinosaur.

“The fire at National Museum of Natural History is tragic,” Prakah Javadekar, India’s environment minister whose department oversees the museum tweeted Tuesday morning. “The Museum is a natural treasure. The loss cannot be quantified.”

Assessments of the specimens and materials lost during the fire will take place over the next few days, but it is anticipated that the museum lost a large collection of mammals and birds. The most valuable of the museum’s specimens, located on the first floor, are believed to be safe from the damage.

“The valuable exhibits including stuffed animals of endangered species were on the first floor, but the fire started higher up,” said museum scientist M. Vijay tells Marszal. “There are various dinosaur parts too but they are all fossils. Don’t worry, they can’t be destroyed by fire.”

The museum additionally houses a reference library of more than 15,000 books, which may have also been damaged during the blaze.

The damage from the fire was likely worse than it needed to be — inoperable pumps inside of the building meant that firefighters instead were required to rely solely on the water in their tanker trucks for the first two hours. There have been rising concerns over the status of safety and other issues surrounding the museum for several years. According to one report, a 2012 parliamentary report criticized the “pathetic functioning” of the museum and recommended moving the exhibits to a more modern facility.

The cause of the fire remains unknown.