Archive for March 8th, 2020

Easter Island moai damaged by truck

Sunday, March 8th, 2020

One of Easter Island’s iconic monoliths was severely damaged when a pick-up truck crashed into it. The ahu (the platform the moai stood on) and the moai overlooking the Pu A Pau Bay were damaged by a truck belonging to a Chilean resident on the island. The ahu is broken up into pieces and the head, which like many of the moai was already toppled, was fractured. The driver was arrested and charged with damaging a national monument. He was released pending investigation, but is banned from getting anywhere near the archaeological and sacred areas of the island.

When the disaster first occurred last Sunday, the suspicion was that this was a deliberate act of vandalism. The driver claimed in his defense that it was an accident and the more recent reports state that he wasn’t driving the truck at all, let alone aiming to destroy the ahu. A relative of the driver says he had parked on top of the hill to go fishing, braking it by wedging rocks under the tires because its emergency brake was broken. When he returned, he removed the rocks and the truck slid down the wet hill, crashing into the monument. He alerted the park rangers to the crash and was given a breathalyzer test which found he had not been drinking. The possible penalties for this crime include a fine of approximately $3,000-$12,000, plus unspecified other consequences depending on what the 90-day investigation reveals.

The moai and ahu are not adjacent to the roads, so that truck must have hurtled downhill quite a ways to reach the statue. The ugly image of the sacred cultural patrimony of Rapa Nui crushed under the rimless tires of a busted Chevy might finally spur the authorities to regulate the movement of vehicles in sacred spaces.

The island’s mayor, Pedro Pablo Petero Edmunds Paoa, is calling for stricter regulations that will prohibit vehicles from driving near the 1,000-odd moai on the UNESCO World Heritage-listed island.

Edmunds Paoa tried to pass an anti-driving measure eight years ago, he told Chilean newspaper El Mercurio de Valpara√≠so, with no effect. He believes that this week’s accident could be the motivating factor to consider re-introducing the proposal.

“The Moai are sacred structures of religious value for the Rapa Nui people,” Rapu said. “Furthermore, [the damage of the moai] is an offense to a culture that has lived many years struggling to recover its heritage and archaeology.”

The moai are already under grave threat from erosion, organic growth, livestock grazing and overtourism. The island’s population has increased by 50% (from 8,000 to 12,000) since 2012 and as travel to the island has gotten easier and less expensive, more than 10,000 tourists visit each month. It is clearly time to revisit the traffic management of the heritage sites.






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