Myanmar Earthquake Rattles Temples of Bagan

The quake has damaged nearly 200 Buddhist sites.

The damaged ancient Myauk Guni Temple. Photo: YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images.

Just hours after the devastating earthquake that hit central Italy this past Wednesday another powerful, unrelated, quake devastated central Myanmar, causing at least four deaths and damaging nearly 200 Buddhist pagodas and temples dating back to the 10th century.

According to Associated Press, the 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck around 25 km (15 miles) west of Chauk, just south of Bagan, killing at least four people and destroying 190 pagodas in the area.

For years, holidaymakers have flocked to Myanmar to soak in the panorama of temples, pagodas and structures constructed in the 10th to 14th centuries and the damage caused by this latest earthquake throws Myanmar’s tourism sector into chaos.

The steeple tilts precariously at the damaged ancient Sinphyushin Temple on August 26, 2016, after a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit Bagan. Photo: YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images.

The steeple tilts precariously at the damaged ancient Sinphyushin Temple on August 26, 2016, after a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit Bagan. Photo: YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images.

The country’s President, Htin Kyaw, traveled to Bagan on Thursday to evaluate the damage and liaise with local officials on restorative measures.

This is not the first time Bagan has been rocked by seismic volatility: in 1975, over half of the estimated 3,000 pagodas and temples the region boasts were damaged in the wake of a 6.5-magnitude quake.

Many of the dilapidated structures were subjected to slapdash restorative efforts during Myanmar’s former military regime, while others have been restored more successfully in recent years with aid from UNESCO.

The damaged ancient Tayoke Pyay Temple. Photo: YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images.

The damaged ancient Tayoke Pyay Temple. Photo: YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images.

Duong Bich Hanh, an official with UNESCO in Bangkok, emphasized that Myanmar authorities should approach reconstruction “very cautiously … to make sure the site is restored properly for the long-term enjoyment of future generations.”

A UN spokesperson said the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is in contact with Myanmar officials and is ready to provide support.


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