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In pictures: Easter Island statues damaged by fire

By Nathan Williams

BBC News

A fire has damaged the enigmatic statues on Easter Island, with some of the charring said to be irreparable.

An unknown number of the stone-carved statues have been affected by the blaze, Chile's cultural heritage undersecretary said.

Easter Island has nearly 1,000 of the megaliths, known as moai. They have oversized heads and generally stand about 4m (13ft) high.

They were carved by a Polynesian tribe more than 500 years ago.

The fire, which broke out on Monday, affected nearly 60 hectares (148 acres), cultural heritage official Carolina Perez Dattari tweeted.

It is reported to have been started deliberately, and is centred around Easter Island's Rano Raraku volcano - which is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Easter Island lies 3,500km (2,174 miles) off the coast of Chile. It relies on tourism and reopened just three months ago following its closure during the Covid-19 pandemic. The site has now been closed again while a conservation team examines the extent of the damage.

The island's Mayor, Pedro Edmunds, told local media: "The damage caused by the fire can't be undone."

The are some 1,000 giant stone statues and carvings on Easter Island, the largest of which weigh 74 tonnes and stand 10m tall.

The figures were carved by the indigenous Rapa Nui people sometime between the years of 1400 and 1650, and positioned to form a ring around the island, facing inland.

They were figures of spiritual devotion for the Rapa Nui, embodying the spirit of a prominent ancestor. Each one was considered to be the person's living incarnation.

To see the images click HERE BBC News