Famous Moai Stone Statues on Easter Island Charred in the Chilian Fire
Nearly 60 hectares were affected, including some moai
Climate change-triggered forest fires are wreaking havoc across the world, from California and Chile to Spain and France, fires are everywhere. However, there have been instances of arson creating infernos that devoured forests and natural heritage in the blink of an eye. In Chile, a forest fire tore through the Rapa Nui National Park, a part of Easter Island, and charred some of its famous monumental moai stone figures. Arson is suspected and an investigation is underway.
The fires have claimed 100 hectares on Easter Island since October 3, which is 2,175 miles off the west coast of Chile. The most affected area was around the Rano Raraku volcano, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The area included several hundred massive carved moai statues along with the quarry that supplied stones used to sculpt these figures.
The extent of the damage is yet to be calculated, Pedro Edmunds, mayor of Easter Island, said the fire has caused irreversible damage. Rapa Nui has over 1,000 stone statues. These giant heads are believed to be first created in the 13th century by the island’s original dwellers.
The national park officials said in a statement that “More than 100 hectares (247 acres) were affected in the Rano Raraku sector which includes the wetland and moai sector.” The park management is facing a shortage of volunteers causing delays in controlling the blaze.
According to Pedro Edmunds, the fire was not a natural occurrence. He said;
All the fires on Rapa Nui are caused by human beings. The damage caused by the fire can’t be undone. The cracking of an original and emblematic stone cannot be recovered, no matter how many millions of euros or dollars are put into it.
It has only been three months since the island was reopened to tourism after the COVID-19 pandemic. The fire has not only harmed the archaeological site but the tourism industry of the island as well, which received over 160,000 annual visitors prior to the pandemic.