Forest fire on Easter Island burns famed moai statues

Area around the Rano Raraku volcano, a Unesco World Heritage Site, was the most affected

Moai affected by a fire at the Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island, Chile, on October 6, 2022. AFP
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Some of Easter Island's fabled monumental carved stone figures, known as moai, were charred by a forest fire on Thursday.

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

Easter Island lies about 3,500 kilometres off the west coast of Chile.

About 100 hectares have been razed by flames since Monday, Ms 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 is extracted.

"The damage caused by the fire can't be undone," said Pedro Edmunds, mayor of Easter Island.

There is still no report on the extent of the damage.

The fire comes after the island was reopened to tourism on August 5, after two years of closure because of Covid-19.

Before the pandemic, Easter Island, whose main livelihood is tourism, received about 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.

Updated: October 07, 2022, 7:29 AM