Located in the Pacific Ocean near Chile, the Easter Island has always been surrounded by mysteries and open questions due to its popular moai — the emblematic gigantic heads made out of stone that belonged to the Rapa Nui, the community that originally lived there.
The descendants of the Rapa Nui now manage the area, a popular tourism destination with over 130,000 visitors per year. This has led to many problems such as tons of waste and growing traffic, culminating yesterday when a truck smashed into a moai.
A Chilean resident was arrested after impacting with his truck an ahu, a sacred ceremonial platform, where a moai was located, causing “incalculable” damage, according to the local communities.
“The damage is incalculable,” said the president of the Polynesian indigenous community, Camilo Rapu, who said in a statement that the events occurred in the morning and that the person responsible was finally stopped.
Through a video, Rapu explained that the driver “collided the ahu with a vehicle, creating great damage.” The ahu is the place where their ancestors were buried over 1,000 years ago, he said, adding that “great harm” was also caused to the moai that was over the ahu.
The representative of the Ma’u Henua community said that they are “very sad and outraged” over the incident, confirming that they have “taken all legal actions” and hope “authorities take action and sanction in an exemplary manner for this not to happen again.”
The images of the damage were disseminated by the community on their Facebook page, where they reiterated “the importance of taking care of the heritage we have in our park because they are not only archaeological remains, they are sacred elements for living culture.”
It was, apparently, an accident, caused by a faulty brake. The head of the local police Jorge Fuentes Sierra said there wasn’t even any driving involved.
“The defendant went to that sector to visit some friends and left his truck with a stone in the front wheel because the handbrake was damaged,” Fuentes said. “Then, he went back to the truck and took the stone, causing the truck to move downhill in direction of the ahu, hitting it and climbing on it.”
Meanwhile, chief prosecutor Lorena Villagrán said that the detainee was not under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident and that he will go to the detention control hearing next week.
The detainee has been residing on Easter Island for more than 12 year. The area where the accident happened is protected by a heritage law and is managed by the local community.
In the 1980s, between 2,000 and 5,000 travelers per year arrived at the Easter island. These days, this has climbed to over 100,000 a year. Also, instead of two flights a week from Santiago, Chile’s capital, there are three per day.
That is a huge burden on an island with only about 6,000 full-time residents, not to mention a place where water and other natural resources are limited and should be used with care.
Although in the past visitors were able to tour the national park freely and approach all the Moai, the excess of tourism has come with restrictions and now travelers must follow a prescribed path and only see some of the statues.