A fire has damaged some of the sacred carved stone figures on Easter Island. As the extent of the damage is still being tallied, there is word that the fire might have been started deliberately.
The “serious fire” sprung around the Rano Raraku volcano and engulfed up to 100 hectares (247 acres) of the Rapa Nui Natural Park, according to Carolina Pérez Dattari, Undersecretary of Cultural Heritage at Chile’s Ministry of Culture. She added that an unknown number of the island’s famous carved stone figures, known as moai, have been charred by the blaze.
Speaking to local media, Easter Island mayor, Pedro Edmunds Paoa, said he believed the fire was “not an accident,” adding “all the fires on Rapa Nui are caused by human beings.” He also blames national authorities in Chile for not financing a fire prevention plan for this “open-air museum.”
“The damage caused by the fire can’t be undone,” Edmunds Paoa reportedly added.
“The cracking of an original and emblematic stone cannot be recovered, no matter how many millions of euros or dollars are put into it,” he continued.
The native name of Easter Island is Rapa Nui. It’s found some 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles) off the west coast of Chile in the south Pacific Ocean and is considered one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. It’s best known for its iconic 4-meter-tall (13-foot) statues that were carved by early Polynesian inhabitants on the tiny volcanic island over 500 years ago.
Since there’s no written history of the island, it’s unclear what the statues represent. However, the statues are often interpreted as paying homage to the ancestors of the island.
Archaeologists have documented 887 of the massive statues, but there are likely to be hundreds more on the island.
One of the moai can be found over 13,000 kilometers (8,077 miles) away within the British Museum in London. Needless to say, the Rapa Nui people consider that the moai was stolen and have called for its return.