Several of Easter Island’s carved stone figures, known as moai, were charred this week by a wildfire on the Pacific island.
The most affected area was around the Rano Raraku volcano, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where several hundred of the sacred statues are located. The area also contains the quarry where the stone was extracted to carve the figures.
“Nearly 60 hectares (148 acres) were affected, including some moai,” Carolina Perez Dattari, Chile’s cultural heritage undersecretary, said in a Twitter post.
Images from the ground show black char marks on the surface of the statues.
“The damage caused by the fire can’t be undone,” the mayor of Easter Island, Pedro Edmunds, told local media.
Easter Island hit hard by fire
The fire on Easter Island broke out on Monday this week, quickly spreading through the grassland and scrub area.
Emergency responders and staff on the island battled for eight hours in a bit to reduce the fire’s spread, Reuters news agency reported.
The full extent of the damage is not yet known.
Easter Island is located around 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles) off the west coast of Chile in the Pacific Ocean.
The moai were carved hundreds of years ago by the Polynesian people who inhabited the island. They are revered as the living faces of the ancestors of the Polynesian navigators who came to the island. Chile later annexed the territory in 1888.
Estimates vary on when the moai were carved, but most researchers say the statues were likely created between 1100 and 1600 CE.
The blaze on Easter Island comes just three months after the territory reopened to tourism following closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
rs/nm (AFP, Reuters)