A Chilean man has been arrested after destroying one of Easter Island’s famed statues by crashing into it with his truck.
The damage angered the Ma’u Henua community, who look after the statues, or moai, and regard them as sacred.
Local mayor Pedro Edmunds Paoa called for better protection for the 1,000 or so moai on the Chilean island, including stricter traffic regulations.
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“Everyone decided against establishing traffic rules when it came to vehicles on sacred sites – but we, as a council, were talking about the dangers and knew very well what the rise in tourist and resident numbers could mean,” he told the El Mercurio newspaper.
“They didn’t listen to us and this is the result.”
The Ma’u Henua community shared pictures of the destruction, which saw the figure reduced to rubble, on its Facebook page.
It wrote in an emotive post: “In the Ma ‘u Henua Community, we regret what happened this morning in the PU A PAU sector, where a truck hit one of our Ahu, seriously damaging the structure that included a moai. I love you.
“We reiterate the importance of taking care of the heritage we have in our park. Because they are not only archaeological vestiges, they are sacred elements for a living and fundamental culture in our cosmovision Rapa Nui.”
The Unesco World Heritage-protected moai are monolithic human figures, carved by the Rapa Nui people on Easter Island between 1250 and 1500.
Many of the statues are set on stone platforms known as “ahu”.
Rapa Nui National Park was included by the World Monuments Fund (WMF) on its 2020 watchlist, which highlights 25 attractions that are particularly endangered.
WMF said these sites are facing “daunting threats such as encroaching urbanisation, political turmoil, natural disaster, and violent conflicts, or present compelling conservation opportunities”.
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