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The iconic Easter Island statues have been damaged in a fire, authorities say

The famous statues on Rapa Nui — also known as Easter Island — have suffered "irreparable" damage in a fire, local authorities said.

A photo shared by the municipality of Rapa Nui on social media shows several charred statues in the aftermath of a blaze that swept through around 250 acres of an area called Rano Raraku, which includes the stone sculptures known as moai.

Rapa Nui Mayor Pedro Edmunds Paoa told the Chilean broadcaster Radio PAUTA that he believed the fire wasn't an accident.

"And that is created by human beings, it is not an accident," Edmunds Paoa said in Spanish in the interview. "All the fires on Rapa Nui are caused by human beings."

Ariki Tepano, with the indigenous Ma'u Henua community that manages the park, said the fire had done "irreparable" damage to the site.

"The moai are totally charred, and you can see the effect of the fire upon them," he said in a statement.

A shortage of volunteers made it difficult to contain the fire, according to the post by Rapa Nui.

Officials from Chile's National Monuments Council were "on the ground assessing damage" from the fire, the country's Undersecretary of Cultural Heritage Carolina Pérez Dattari said in a tweet. Pérez Dattari said the Chilean government was offering its full support to the island.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Rapa Nui National Park is home to an estimated 1,000 moai, which range in size from 6 to more than 30 feet tall.

A Polynesian society that had settled in the area around the year 300 built the shrines between the 10th and 16th centuries on what experts say is the most remote inhabited island on Earth.

The park was closed to visitors on Wednesday.

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Joe Hernandez
[Copyright 2024 NPR]