The famous statues of Rapa Nui – also known as Easter Island – suffered “irreparable” damage in a fire, local authorities have said.
A photo shared by the Municipality of Rapa Nui on social media shows several charred statues following a fire that swept through approximately 250 acres of an area called Rano Raraku, which includes the stone sculptures known as moai.
Rapa Nui Mayor Pedro Edmunds Paoa told Chilean broadcaster Radio PAUTA he believed the fire was not an accident.
“And this is created by human beings, it’s not an accident,” Edmunds Paoa said in Spanish in the interview. “All the fires in Rapa Nui are caused by human beings.”
Ariki Tepano, of the Ma’u Henua indigenous community that runs the park, said the fire caused “irreparable” damage to the site.
“The moai are totally charred and you can see the effect of the fire on them,” he said in a statement.
A shortage of volunteers made it difficult to bring the blaze under control, according to the message from Rapa Nui.
Officials from Chile’s National Monuments Council were “on the ground to assess the damage” caused by the fire, said the country’s undersecretary of cultural heritage, Carolina Pérez Dattari. said in a tweet. Pérez Dattari said the Chilean government offered its full support to the island.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Rapa Nui National Park is home to around 1,000 moairanging in size from 6 to over 30 feet tall.
A Polynesian society that had settled in the area around AD 300 built the shrines between the 10th and 16th centuries on what experts say is the most remote inhabited island on the planet.
The park was closed to visitors on Wednesday.