Easter Island moai charred by fire

Easter Island moai charred by fire

A forest fire that tore through part of Easter Island has charred some of its monumental carved stone figures, known as moai, authorities said.

The blaze swept through the Rapa Nui national park, 3,500 km 2,175 miles off the west coast of Chile, causing irreparable damage to the archaeological site.

More than 100 hectares of 247 acres were affected in the Rano Raraku sector, which includes the wetland and moai sector, the national park said in a statement on its official Facebook page on Thursday.

Carolina Perez, cultural heritage undersecretary, said the island - which is 3,500 km 2,175 miles off the west coast of Chile - had been razed by flames since Monday.

Rapa Nui has more than 1,000 stone statues and giant heads that have been believed to have been carved by the island's original inhabitants in the 13th century. The area around Rano Raraku, a Unesco world heritage site, was the most affected.

An estimated several hundred moai are found in the area, as well as in the quarry where the stone is used to carve sculptures.

Ariki Tepano, director of the Ma u Henua community in charge of the park management and maintenance, described the damage as irreparable. The moai are totally charred and you can see the effect of the fire on them, he said.

Easter Island mayor Pedro Edmunds Paoa believes that the fire is not an accident, and told local broadcaster Radio Pauta that all the fires on Rapa Nui are caused by human beings. Edmunds Paoa said the damage caused by the fire can't be undone. No matter how many millions of dollars are put into it, the cracking of an original and emblematic stone can never be recovered. The park said that a shortage of volunteers hindered the ability of officials to control the fire. The total damage to the site is yet to be assessed.

The fire came just three months after the island was reopened to tourism on August 5 after two years of closure due to Covid - 19.

Before the flu, Easter Island, where the main livelihood is tourism received 160,000 visitors a year, on two daily flights.

Tourist activity was completely suspended after the arrival of Covid 19 in Chile.

The island was long inhabited by Polynesian people before Chile annexed it in 1888. It is believed that the monuments represent the living ancestors of Easter Island's Polynesian people and were once linked to ritual activity, forming a focal point for communities.