Fire damages Christ statue days before pope visit
Conflicting reports on whether blaze was an arson or accident.
LIMA, Peru — A giant Christ statue in Peru’s capital that was donated by a construction company at the center of Latin America’s largest corruption scandal was damaged Saturday in a fire, days before Pope Francis is set to arrive in the South American nation.
Peruvians awoke to find nearly the entire back of the statue, perched on a barren desert bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, charred black.
A spokesperson with Peru’s firefighting corps told RPP Noticias that two dozen firefighters responded to the blaze and that an early working theory was the Christ of the Pacific was purposely set aflame.
However police later told state news agency Andina that electrical cables for the statue’s lighting had shortcircuited due to humidity, sparking the blaze.
“Police security for the Holy Father’s visit is assured,” Col. Manuel Rivera said.
The 69-foot statue was donated by Brazilian company Odebrecht in 2011, and for many Peruvians it has become a sour reminder of the company’s illegal maneuverings to court and bribe high-ranking officials in exchange for lucrative public works contracts.
The Christ statue’s burning comes five days before Francis is scheduled to arrive in Peru. Peruvians are expected to be paying close attention to whether he addresses corruption.
A man rests with his bicycle near the fire-charred Christ of the Pacific statue in Lima, Peru, on Saturday.