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The earthquake aftermath: ‘Don’t rush with restoration’

“Hanging by a thread” is probably the best way to describe the spires that sit atop many of the temples of Bagan in the wake of the earthquake that struck central Burma last Wednesday.

The finial ornaments of many pagodas now lie on the ground or hang precariously from their high perches, while towers have crumbled and a number of temples have gaping holes in them after the 6.8-magnitude earthquake rocked Burma’s ancient capital.

The number of temples that will need extensive repairs has risen from 187 last week to 397 as the Department of Archaeology continues to inventory the damage.

Chair of the Myanmar Cultural Heritage Trust, Sanda Khin, says their first priority is the immediate protection of the most damaged temples.

“Sulamani has been prioritised. These temples are very important–they have stuccos, stone carvings and many valuable mural paintings,” said Sanda Khin, speaking to DVB outside the 12th-century Sulamani Temple.

Over the weekend, Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing visited Bagan and donated 100 million kyat (US$82,000) to the Archaeology and National Museum Department.  Other donations came from Gate Way (400 million kyat); and 100 million from KBZ Brighter Future Myanmar Foundation.

Sanda Khin said that they won’t be rushing repairs, but will instead focus on “very systematic conservation, gradually.”

The Department of Archaeology confirms this statement.

“We have to devise nine groups to cover 11 areas of Bagan,” said Gyi Lin, a specialist in frescoes who works with the Department of Archaeology. He says they are working around the clock to conduct their preliminary inventory and documentation: “Now we have stopped the restoration or conservation, and are just doing the documentation.”

Temples such as Htilominlo, Sulamani,  Shwesandaw and Pyathatgyi are some of the most damaged, and are now sectioned off from visitors. Tourists are currently forbidden to climb any temples to watch sunrise or sunset.

 

A spire hanging on by a thread (Photo: Libby Hogan / DVB)

A Buddha statue untouched despite fallen bricks. (Photo: Libby Hogan / DVB)

One of Sulamani’s sides shattered after the earthquake. (Photo: Libby Hogan / DVB)

Teams of volunteers and authorities passing buckets of broken bricks down from the top of Sulamani Temple. (Photo: Libby Hogan / DVB)

Men working to install bamboo scaffolding around the Sulamani Temple (Photo: Libby Hogan / DVB)

The top of Sulamani was severely damaged by the earthquake. (Photo: Libby Hogan / DVB)

One of Sulamani’s collapsed pillars. (Photo: Libby Hogan / DVB)

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing visits Bagan to donate funds to the restoration effort. (Photo: Libby Hogan / DVB)

One of the 397 pagodas and temples recorded as damaged by the earthquake. (Photo: Libby Hogan / DVB)

One spire remains. (Photo: Libby Hogan / DVB)

Another temple missing its top after the earthquake (Photo: Libby Hogan / DVB)

The once popular spot for tourists to watch sunset is now closed to tourists. (Photo: Libby Hogan / DVB)

A lopsided spire. (Photo: Libby Hogan / DVB)

Many smaller temples have been sectioned off from the public. (Photo: Libby Hogan / DVB)