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'Incalculable' Damage After Truck Hits Easter Island Statue

The unmanned vehicle was parked, but the brake apparently failed
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 7, 2020 6:30 AM CST

(Newser) – For the Rapa Nui, the iconic moai statues of Easter Island are "sacred structures," Camilo Rapu, the head of the indigenous community there, tells CNN. That's why what went down in the Chilean territory Sunday has the locals distressed and wondering how to better protect the famous basalt structures, a longtime tourist attraction. "We regret what happened today," reads a Facebook post by the Ma'u Henua indigenous group, showing photos of a pickup truck atop what looks like piles of stone. What happened, per People, is that the "rogue" truck was parked atop a hill in the Pu a Pau section of the island when there was an apparent brake failure, sending the truck rolling down the hill. It slammed into an "ahu" (platform) holding moai, including a 7-foot-tall structure that was destroyed by the truck.

"It could not be worse," Jo Anne Van Tilburg, head of the Easter Island Statue Project, tells the New York Times. A relative of the driver of the truck says the driver had shoved rocks under the vehicle's tires to keep it from moving while he fished nearby; when he took the rocks out, the truck started sliding down a slope slippery from weeks of downpours. "He is very stressed and very apologetic," the relative says. The driver was reportedly arrested, though it's not clear what charges may be brought against him. "The damage is incalculable," Rapu tells CNN, adding that the damage to the moai "is an offense to a culture that has lived many years struggling to recover its heritage and archaeology." Tilburg notes to the Times there are about 350 ahu platforms scattered around the island, each holding between one and 15 statues that are either standing or toppled over. (Read more Easter Island stories.)

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