Several valuables and rare specimens have been destroyed in a massive fire that broke out at the National Museum of Natural History in New Delhi. It is one of the two museums in the country that focuses on nature in India.

As many as 200 fire fighters had to be called in from different parts of the capital. Six officials were taken to hospital after inhaling smoke as they got trapped when the fire engulfed the six-storey building in the early hours of Tuesday, 26 April.

Two of them suffered severe burns while trying to douse he fire during a four-hour-long operation. Electrical equipment may have caused the fire, said Delhi fire service director J C Mishra, ANI reports.

Fire service officials said the blaze could have been controlled if the museum's fire safety equipment had functioned properly.

Environment minister Prakash Javadekar who inspected the havoc, said: "This is tragic, the Natural History Museum is a national treasure and the loss cannot be counted in rupees." He ordered a fire audit of all 34 national museums across the country.

The museum which opened in 1978 has a life size model of a dinosaur displayed in the front. It had exhibited a large collection of stuffed animals and birds, along with pieces on natural history, ecology and environment.