‘Irreparable’ Damage: Easter Island Statues Charred In Forest Fire — Arson Suspected

Aforest fire that ripped through part of Easter Island has charred some of its iconic carved stone figures, known as moai, according to Chilean authorities.

The world’s most remote inhabited island lies 2,175 miles off the western coast of Chile and is for many travelers a bucket-list destination. The marquee attraction is the roughly 900 oversized head-and-torso statues carved from hardened volcanic ash.

The maoi stand between six and 65 feet tall and were erected between the 10th and 16th centuries by a colony of Eastern Polynesian settlers who “created an unrivaled landscape that continues to fascinate people throughout the world,” according to UNESCO.

A blaze started Monday and swept through 100 hectares (247 acres) of the Rapa Nui National Park, which covers approximately 40% of the island.

The damage to some of the giant head statues is “irreparable and with consequences beyond what your eyes can see,” Ariki Tepano, director of the administration and maintenance of the park, said on social media.

In an interview with Chilean radio broadcaster Pauta, the mayor of Easter Island, Pedro Edmunds Paoa, said he believed the fire was “not an accident” and that “all the fires on Rapa Nui are caused by human beings.” Paoa criticized the Chilean government for not allocating adequate resources to protect the site. “There is no money to prevent fires on Easter Island in the more than 32 thousand archaeological sites. To prevent fire, we need to have guards permanently at the sites,” he said.

The fire impacted the archaeological area around the Rano Raraku volcano, a UNESCO world heritage site, where several hundred maoi are located, as well as the quarry where the volcanic stone was extracted. The site also contains more than 300 ceremonial platforms and thousands of structures related to agriculture, funeral rites, housing and production, according to UNESCO.

The fire comes just two months after Easter Island was reopened to tourists, after a two-year closure due to Covid-19.

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