Dozens of moai statues damaged in wildfires, some of them irreparable, Easter Island

easter island moai quarry wildfire damage october 2022

Two wildfires broke out near the Rano Raraku volcanic crater in Easter Island, Chile last week, spreading to about 60 ha (150 acres) before they were brought under control. The flames entered the moai quarry where 386 iconic statues are located, causing irreparable damage to about 80 of them.

According to the Chilean National Monuments Council statement issued on October 7, it was unknown how many of the famous 386 moai statues located near Rano Raraku were damaged in the fire.

However, information received on October 8 and 9 indicates that up to 80 of them could be damaged.

Some news outlets still repeat false information that the fires were caused by the volcanic eruption at Rano Raraku, but the mayor of Easter Island – Pedro Edmunds said several days ago that they arose from the burning of pastureland, adding that this is a common problem that has been repeated in recent times.

The emergency was more severe in this case because the flames entered the Rano Raraku moai quarry and burned the material of dozens of statues.

“The damage caused by the fire can’t be undone,” said Edmunds.1

“What the fire does is to burn the stone, and instead of breaking, it cracks, like crocodile skin, and with time it crumbles, that is to say, what happened is that the process in which the stone will turn into sand was accelerated and that is irrecoverable,” he said.

easter island september 13 2022 sentinel-2 bg annotated
Easter Island, Chile on September 13, 2022. Credit: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-2, EO Browser, The Watchers. Annotated by The Watchers

“[The damage] is irreparable and with consequences bigger than what the eyes can see,” Ariki Tepano of the Ma’u Henua community said.2

Local media quoted Ninoska Huki, the local head of the forestry authority Conaf, as saying that “there was no capability to combat the fire because we still don’t have a Conaf brigade.”

Edmunds detailed that the damages figure is still preliminary and informed that the experts initiated a study in the field to determine the actual caliber of the deterioration.


1 Fire on Easter Island Causes Irreparable Damage to 20% Of Moais – teleSUR – October 7, 2022

2 Easter Island Moais sustain damage in major fire – Chile Today – October 7, 2022

Featured image credit: Mata O Te Rapa Nui TV (stillshot)


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