Anger on Easter Island after truck crashes into sacred stone statue


MARCH 6, 2020

Pick up truck crashes into Easter Island sacred stone statue.

Mayor calls for vehicle restrictions around famous structures after Chilean man causes ‘incalculable’ damage

The mayor of Easter Island has called for vehicle restrictions to be introduced around its archaeological sites after a pickup truck hit one of the famous stone statues, causing “incalculable” damage.

A Chilean man who lives on the island, in Polynesia, was arrested after the incident on Sunday and has been charged with damaging a national monument, according to the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio de Valparaíso. The platform on which the statue stood was also damaged in the crash, it reported.

About 1,000 of the figures, known as moai, are dotted around the island, which local people call Rapa Nui.

Indigenous Rapa Nui islanders believe the moai carry the spirits of prominent ancestors and they are seen as living incarnations of their relatives.

Camilo Rapu, the president of the Ma’u Henua community, which looks after the moai, said the crash may have been deliberate.

No one was in the truck when it crashed. – Courtesy Camilo Rapu

“As people know, the moai are sacred structures that possess a religious value for the people of Rapa Nui,” he said. “Something like this isn’t just dreadful, it’s an offence against a living culture that has spent the last few years fighting to regain its historic and archaeological heritage.”

The island’s mayor, Pedro Edmunds Paoa, told El Mercurio the collision appeared to have been the result of brake failure. He said the incident demonstrated the need for stricter traffic controls.

He previously told the paper: “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 said the island’s population had risen from 8,000 to 12,000 since 2012, adding that it also hosted 12,000 tourists a month. “They didn’t listen to us and this is the result,” the mayor said.

Last June, experts from the British Museum travelled to Easter Island to discuss how to help preserve the statues.

The visit came after the island’s authorities and the Chilean government sent a delegation to London in November 2018 to request the return of the Hoa Hakananai’a, a 7ft (2.13-metre) basalt statue at the British Museum, which was removed from the island by British sailors more than 150 years ago.

The museum said that it was always happy to consider “loan requests”. Edmunds instead suggested the Hoa Hakananai’a could act as an “ambassador” for Easter Island, and Britain could keep it in return for regular payments to ensure the upkeep of the other statues on the island.

Courtesy/Source: The Guardian