A suspected arson damaged an undisclosed number of megaliths in Easter Island’s Rapa Nui National Park Monday.
The fire, which affected multiple acres on the cultural heritage site, was initially believed to have been caused by the nearby Rano Raraku volcano. It is now considered to have been set deliberately, according to the mayor of Rapa Nui, Pedro Edmunds Paoa, USA Today reported. In an interview with Radio Pauta, Paoa said the fire was “not an accident” as “all the fires on Rapa Nui are caused by human beings,” according to USA Today. (RELATED: Yosemite Forest Fire Threatens America’s Oldest Sequoia Trees)
The blaze was started deliberately, according to mayor of Easter Island https://t.co/K3jskU5n6X
— Sky News (@SkyNews) October 7, 2022
Easter Island, located off the coast of Chile, is considered the most remote inhabited island on Earth. It is comprised of about 40,000 acres and the World Heritage property occupies an area of approximately 17,000 acres, according to UNESCO.
“There is no money to prevent fires on Easter Island in the more than 32,000 archaeological sites. To prevent fire, we need to have guards permanently at the sites,” Paoa said, per USA Today.
Rapa Nui National Park is best known for its archaeological sites, the most famous of which are the moai, which were carved by Polynesian tribes nearly 500 years ago, per UNESCO. These well-known megaliths number about 900 and stand anywhere from 2 meters tall to 20 meters tall.
Ariki Tepano, the director for the management and maintenance of the park called the damage to the moai “irreparable” with “consequences beyond what your eyes see, the moai are totally charred and you can see the effect of the fire upon them,” he said according to a Wednesday Facebook post.
The site was closed to visitors Wednesday as the Conservation Department investigated the fire, the Facebook post announced.