Easter Island Statues Suffer ‘Irreparable Damage’ After Volcano Fire, Possible Arson: PHOTOS

by Emily Morgan
Photo by: leonard78uk

After a fire ripped through Easter Island, some of its historical monuments have been permanently damaged, according to officials.

The blaze, which started on Monday, was caused by the nearby Rano Raraku volcano. During its burn, it scorched more than 247 acres of sacred land on the island. In its path were that iconic stone-carved statues known as ‘Moai.’

The statues were created by a Polynesian tribe over 500 years ago.

Ariki Tepano, who acts as the director of the indigenous Ma’u Henua community, which manages the Rapa Nui Natural Park, described the destruction as “irreparable.” She said in a grim statement that the “consequences go beyond what the eyes can see.” She added: “The damage to some of the giant head statues is irreparable.”

The Rapa Nui National Park is also a protected island that displays the history of the Rapa Nui culture.

Easter Island, one of the most isolated pieces of land, is located more than 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile. It’s well-known for its towering stone statues known as moai. Historians believe they were built between the 10th and 16th centuries by the native people.

The massive stones stood between six and 65 feet tall and were built by Eastern Polynesian natives who “created an unrivaled landscape that continues to fascinate people throughout the world,” according to UNESCO.

Easter Island’s Mayor suspects arson, says all fires on the island are caused by ‘human beings’

The remote island has long been a bucket list destination for many people worldwide, primarily due to the Moai monuments. During an interview, the mayor of Rapa Nui, Pedro Edmunds Paoa, said he believes the forest fire resulted from arson.

Paoa said he also suspects the burn was “not an accident.” He also believes that “all the fires on Rapa Nui are caused by human beings.” In addition, Paoa also condemned officials in Chile for not providing enough funding to protect the site from disasters.

“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 added.

Chile’s Undersecretary of Cultural Heritage, Carolina Pérez Dattari, said that officials from the country’s National Monuments Council “are on the ground assessing the damages” from the fire.

According to the CNM, a fire can severely impact the composition of the statues from “exposure to high temperatures … which could create big fractures that affect the Moai’s integrity.”

On Facebook, presidential delegate Juliette Hotus denounced the fire and expressed worry over the island’s “material heritage.”

“We are asking for the necessary tools. But if we do not have the collaboration of the community, we will not move forward,” Hotus said in the post.

The site was closed to visitors this week while local responders investigated the damage, officials reported.