Authorities confirmed Thursday that a forest fire that ripped through half of Easter Island scorched some of the island’s famed gigantic carved stone statues known as moai.
“Nearly 60 hectares (148 acres) were affected, including some moai,” Carolina Perez, undersecretary of cultural heritage, stated on Twitter.
Since Monday, 100 hectares of Easter Island, located 3,500 kilometres (2,175 miles) off the west coast of Chile, have been devastated by fire, according to Perez. The Rano Raraku volcano, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the hardest hit.
An estimated several hundred moai are in that area, as well as in the quarry where the stone used to carve the sculptures is extracted.This handout picture released by the Rapa Nui municipality shows moai — stone statues of the Rapa Nui culture — affected by a fire at the Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island, Chile – Rapanui Municipality/AFP
“The damage caused by the fire can’t be undone,” Pedro Edmunds, mayor of Easter Island, told local media.
There is still no report on the total damage.
But 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.
Before the pandemic, Easter Island — whose main livelihood is tourism — received some 160,000 visitors a year, on two daily flights.
But 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.