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Chile’s Easter Island ‘Moai’ statues face irreparable damage after wildfire

file photo: a tourist looks at a statue named "moai" at easter island
A tourist looks at a statue named "Moai" at Easter Island, Chile February 13, 2019.

A number of Easter Island’s iconic ‘Moai’ stone statues suffered irreparable damage after a wildfire swept through the island earlier this week, the island’s mayor told Reuters on Friday.

“It’s unquantifiable, unmeasurable, the damage there is, it’s irrecoverable,” said Pedro Edmunds, mayor of Easter Island, a territory of Chile. “Because what the fire does is heat the rock and the rock cracks.”

He said scientists are going to visit the island alongside park administrators to evaluate the extent of the damage and determine what can be done.

“I don’t know if there’s a solution for this,” Edmunds said.

A preliminary report released by Chile’s culture, arts and heritage ministry stated that a wildfire that started on Tuesday swept through more than 60 hectares (148.26 acres) and damaged an unknown number of the sacred Moai statues.

The report did not state a cause for the wildfire and said there would be further investigations into the fire and the damage it caused.

The Rano Raraku volcanic crater, which is in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Rapa Nui National Park and where several statues are located, was severely damaged by the fire.

“For us it’s super painful to see how the Moai burned,” said Francisco Haoa, a representative of the Rapa Nui people, adding that the statues already face slow damage from rain, sun and wind.

“And the fire accelerates that damage to the Moais.”

Easter Island, over 2,000 miles (3,219 km) from the coast of Chile, recently reopened to tourists on Aug. 1 after closing its borders for more than two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Carolina Perez, subsecretary of Chile’s culture, arts and heritage ministry, said on Twitter that the government was offering its support to the mayor, but Edmunds blamed a lack of government support for the damage.

“The solution is in the hands of an absent state, that has been absent and is still absent,” Edmunds said. “And doesn’t want to listen to the island that’s planned to prevent these problems.”

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