A fire ravaged parts of Easter Island’s forest and burned an unknown number of sacred moai statues.
Easter Island is located about 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile and depends on tourism, especially having just reopened three months ago after a two-year COVID-19 closure, according to BBC News.
What are the moai statues?
The famous statues are significant pieces of the Rapa Nui people’s archaeological record. The head and torso statues were crafted from hardened volcano ash between the 10th and 16th centuries by the island’s community of Eastern Polynesian settlers.
The moai range in height from six feet to 65 feet tall. Today they fuel tourism and the world’s endless fascination with the unique landscape, per UNESCO.
According to the BBC, the island’s settlers carved these statues as a part of their spiritual devotion. They are believed to embody “the spirit of a prominent ancestor” and “each one was considered to be the person’s living incarnation.”
The fire began blazing on Monday and has torched about 247 acres of Rapa Nui National Park, which is roughly equal to about 40% of the island, per Forbes.
According to director of the administration and maintenance of the park, Ariki Tepano, the damage caused by the fire is “irreparable and with consequences beyond what your eyes can see.”
What are authorities saying?
The island’s mayor, Pedro Edmunds Paoa, says that he does not believe the fire was an accident.
“All the fires on Rapa Nui are caused by human beings,” he claimed, per USA Today. He continued to criticize the Chilean government for not adequately protecting the site.
To Radio PAUTA, Paoa said, “There is no money to prevent fires on Easter Island in the more than 32 thousand archaeological sites.”
“To prevent fire, we need to have guards permanently at the sites,” he continued.
As the fire raged and officials responded to the damage it left in its wake, the site has been closed to the public.