Easter Island blaze chars famous moai statues

A forest fire that tore through part of Easter Island has charred some of its fabled monumental carved stone figures, known as moai.

“Nearly 60 hectares were affected, including some moai,” cultural heritage undersecretary Carolina Perez said in a Twitter post.

On Easter Island, which lies some 3,500 kilometres off the west coast of Chile, 100 hectares have been destroyed by flames since Monday, Perez said.

The area around the Rano Raraku volcano — a UNESCO World Heritage site — was the most-affected.

An estimated several hundred moai are in that area, as well as in the quarry where the stone used to carve the sculptures was extracted.

A fire burning in the Rapa Nui National Park on Thursday.(AFP: CONAF)

“The damage caused by the fire can’t be undone,” mayor of Easter Island Pedro Edmunds said.

There is still no report on the total damage.

However, the fire comes just three months after the island was reopened to tourism on August 5, after two years of closure due to COVID-19.

A scorched stone statue appears among charred vegetation.
Moais appear charred by the fire.(AFP: Rapanui Municipality)

Before the pandemic, Easter Island — which depends on tourism — received about 160,000 visitors a year via two daily flights.

However, with the arrival of COVID-19 in Chile, tourist activity was completely suspended.

The island was long inhabited by Polynesian people, before Chile annexed it in 1888.