Friday, December 2, 2011

Fears for ancient Thai temples as floods recede

The ruined temples of Ayutthaya have survived centuries of tropical heat and rain, but experts fear some have been weakened by Thailand's devastating floods and may be at risk of collapse.

Unusually heavy monsoon rains caused a deluge that swept across much of central and northern Thailand from July, leaving more than 600 people dead and damaging millions of homes and livelihoods.

Ayutthaya, around 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Bangkok, was in one of the worst-hit parts of the country and dramatic aerial images last month showed its temples as islands in a vast lake of floodwater.

The structures spent weeks swamped by the murky waters and now fresh cracks have appeared in some of the pagodas that dominate the historic capital, a major tourist attraction and UNESCO World Heritage site.

As the waters retreat, visitors have been warned not to climb onto the structures in case they collapse.
Chaiyanand Busayarat, director of Ayutthaya Historical Park, estimated at least 650 million baht ($20 million) worth of damage had been done, but said the full consequences of the floods were not yet known....

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