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Iconic Easter Island statues 'totally charred' by fire

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Fire has caused "irreparable damage" to some of the famous Easter Island statues, according to the director of management and maintenance at the UNESCO World Heritage site. Photo courtesy of Rapa Nui Natural Park/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/MuniRapaNui/posts/pfbid0jh3EutfRtv8iw8tS7PtxRhipp6sZjuBuG1CTW5yc46RGfYtNVpgjLXBjBCvATDGcl">Facebook</a>
Fire has caused "irreparable damage" to some of the famous Easter Island statues, according to the director of management and maintenance at the UNESCO World Heritage site. Photo courtesy of Rapa Nui Natural Park/Facebook

Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Fire has damaged Easter Island's iconic megalith statues known as moai. An unknown number of the nearly 1,000 stone-carved statues were affected.

Ariki Tepano, director of the Ma'u Henua community in charge of management and maintenance at the UNESCO heritage site Rapa Nui Natural Park, said the damage is "irreparable and with consequences beyond what your eyes can see."

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"The moai are totally charred and you can see the effect of the fire upon them," Tepano said in a social media post.

The city of Rapa Nui said in the post that the site is closed to visitors while investigations are underway to assess the damage.

RELATED Strong magnitude-6.8 earthquake hits Easter Island area in South Pacific

Chilean Cultural Heritage Undersecretary Carolina Perez Dattari tweeted that fire swept through the World Heritage Site on Easter Island.

More than 247.1 acres, including the moai sector, were hit by fire affecting "one of the major archaeological sites," the city of Rapa Nui said in a Facebook post.

The statues, created by the Rapa Nui people between 1400 and 1650, are considered to embody the spirit of a prominent ancestor with each one considered to be a living incarnation of the person.

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According to a UNESCO description of the Easter Island site, "A society of Polynesian origin that settled there c. A.D. 300 established a powerful, imaginative and original tradition of monumental sculpture and architecture, free from any external influence. From the 10th to the 16th century this society built shrines and erected enormous stone figures known as moai, which created an unrivaled landscape that continues to fascinate people throughout the world."

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