Fire damages some of Easter Island’s famous Moai statues
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — A fire that ripped through part of Chile’s Easter Island this week has permanently damaged some of its iconic carved stone figures known as moai, authorities said.
The high temperature of the wildfire accelerated the process by which the stone carvings eventually turn to sand, said the mayor of the island known locally as Rapa Nui.
The damage was “irreparable and immeasurable,” said Mayor Pedro Edmunds Paoa.
The Chilean island, which lies in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, has about 800 moais, half of which are inside the Rano Raraku volcano.
This week’s fire blazed through 104 acres and particularly affected an area inside the volcano where there are about 100 moais, about 20 percent of which were damaged, Edmunds Paoa said. There are also some damaged structures outside of the volcano.
The high temperatures calcine the stone of the moais, causing it to “crack” and over time “begin to break down,” Edmunds Paoa told a local radio station.
The mayor blamed the locals, who raise cows and horses on the island and regularly burn grasslands.
Edmunds Paoa accused the state of abandoning the island.
“Working to prevent accidents and fires requires a prevention plan that requires resources, and we don’t have those,” he said.
Ninoska Huki, the local director of the National Forest Corporation, had previously said there was a shortage of firefighters on the island.
Officials are currently working to determine how badly the fire has hit the island, which is around 3,700 kilometers from mainland Chile and is home to around 7,700 people.
The island is known around the world for its moais, stone structures thought to weigh around 14 tons, and the Rapa Nui National Park covers about 40 percent of the island.
As of 2019, Easter Island is known locally as Rapa Nui Easter Island.
The island only reopened to tourists in August after being closed for more than two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
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