'Irreparable': Easter Island fire chars famous towering Moai statues, arson suspected




  • In Business
  • 2022-10-07 17:22:23Z
  • By USA TODAY

A forest fire that ripped through part of Easter Island this week has charred some of its towering iconic carved stone figures, Chilean officials reported.

The blaze broke out Monday and swept through at least 247 acres of the Rapa Nui National Park, which covers a little less than half of the island, officials there said.

"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, wrote on Facebook Wednesday.

Located more than 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile, Easter Island is one of the world's most isolated inhabited islands. It's famous for the enormous stone statues known as moai, which were erected between the 10th and 16th centuries by the Rapa Nui people.

The towering stones stand between six and 65 feet tall and were built by Eastern Polynesian settlers who "created an unrivaled landscape that continues to fascinate people throughout the world," according to UNESCO.

A forest fire that ripped through part of Easter Island charred some of its towering iconic carved stone figures, Chilean officials reported.
A forest fire that ripped through part of Easter Island charred some of its towering iconic carved stone figures, Chilean officials reported.  
A forest fire caused by the nearby Rano Raraku volcano, started Oct.
A forest fire caused by the nearby Rano Raraku volcano, started Oct.  
Stone statues of the Rapa Nui culture on the Ahu Tongariki site on Easter Island off the Chilean coast in the Pacific Ocean on August 12, 2013.
Stone statues of the Rapa Nui culture on the Ahu Tongariki site on Easter Island off the Chilean coast in the Pacific Ocean on August 12, 2013.  

In an interview with Radio PAUTA, the mayor of Rapa Nui, Pedro Edmunds Paoa, said he suspected arson was to blame for the damage.

Paoa, said he believed the fire was "not an accident" and that "all the fires on Rapa Nui are caused by human beings." The mayor also 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 told PAUTA.

USA TODAY could not immediately reach Tepano or Paoa for comment Friday morning.

A forest fire, caused by the nearby Rano Raraku volcano, charred some of Easter Island
A forest fire, caused by the nearby Rano Raraku volcano, charred some of Easter Island's towering iconic carved stone figures, Chilean officials reported.  

In a Facebook post, presidential delegate Juliette Hotus rejected the burning and expressed concern over the destruction of Rapa Nui'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, so I call to denounce and not continue with these practices," Hotus said in the Facebook post.

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

Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at nalund@usatoday.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Easter Island fire chars famous towering Moai statues, arson suspected

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