Easter Island statues damaged by fire

The Easter Island statues, including one taken here on October 6, 2022, were damaged in a fire. Rapanui Municipality / AFP

In this protected natural area of ​​​​Chile, the flames have been damaging the Rapa Nui National Park, which houses the figures, since the beginning of the week.

A landscape that gives chills to constitute a cultural drama. From the first photographs received, the observation seems clear. Largely blackened and damaged, the famous statues on Easter Island, off the coast of Chile, have borne the brunt of the fire that has been raging since the start of the week. According to local authorities, the flames have damaged more than 100 hectares, including part of the Rapa Nui National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is home to the “Moaï” in particular.

Currently, the shortage of volunteers to fight the flames makes it impossible to control the fire, which began near the majestic Rano Raraku volcano, before spreading to the archaeological site. According to estimates, in this sector there are several hundred moai, sometimes erect, sometimes lying down. What to fear the worst. The famous giant heads of Easter Island, carved from volcanic rock, are an important legacy, left behind centuries ago by a vanished civilization.

For the local authorities, the damage caused is “irreparable”. MUNICIPALITY OF RAPANUI / AFP

Alarm call from local authorities

Ariki Tepano, director of the Ma’u Henua community, in charge of the administration and maintenance of the park, expressed his dismay in a press release released on October 6. For him, the damage caused is “irreparable” and has “consequences that go far beyond what [nos] the eyes can see. The moai are completely burned and you can see the effect of the fire on them». For her part, Juliette Hotus, presidential delegate, expressed her concern about the destruction of this “tangible heritage”. Local authorities plan an extraordinary meeting to try to control the fire.

For his part, the mayor of Easter Island, Pedro Edmunds Paoa, interviewed by the local station Pauta, considered that the fire was not “not an accident”. And to add: “All fires in Rapa Nui are caused by human beings”. For now, the number of damaged statues has not yet been revealed. Easter Island attracts 116,000 annual visitors from around the world to see its famous Moai. Closed during the Covid crisis, it had just reopened its doors to tourists. This fire is therefore a new blow, while the statues were already threatened by global warming.

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