Bagan Temple Damaged in August Earthquake Collapses

By Zarni Mann 5 March 2018

MANDALAY – A temple in Bagan’s archaeological zone collapsed on Sunday as a result of damage sustained in an earthquake in 2016.

Three sides of the main structure at Temple No. 1,066, located near the Sein Nyat Sisters pagodas, developed cracks during the earthquake on Aug. 24, 2016. The Department of Archaeology and National Museum had reinforced the temple after the quake, but the work could not prevent the collapse.

According to the department, the cracked walls were themselves replacements built in late 1996 during major restorations of the ancient ruins of pagodas and temples in Bagan.

“The new walls on three sides of the square temple were cracked during the earthquake. We braced it with temporary iron belts. However, cracks in the base [of the structure] meant that it could not sustain the weight above it, causing the collapse,” explained U Aung Aung Kyaw, director of the department’s Bagan office.

The department is consulting with experts on how to handle the remaining ruins of Temple No. 1,066 in order to avoid a repeat of the mistakes made in the past.

“The original wall and entrance of the temple are still standing. We are only cleaning up the area and consulting with experts on how to maintain it,” U Aung Aung Kyaw added.

Authorities are currently in the process of applying for UNESCO World Heritage Site status for Bagan.

The department said the incident would not affect the ongoing submission of Bagan’s initial application for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Experts have ensured that the process meets all requirements, it said.

Starting in 1996, major restoration work was done on over 800 of Bagan’s ruined ancient pagodas and temples. The renovation and rebuilding work was widely criticized, with many experts saying their suggestions that the site not be renovated had been ignored by authorities.

Local experts said technical teams were in Bagan to help maintain earthquake-hit pagodas. They believed the mistakes of the past would not be repeated.

“We don’t want to dwell on the mistakes of the past. But now, the technical expert teams are in the right place and providing assistance, and government officials are listening to them. We believe this will achieve the best result and allow us to avoid repeating past mistakes,” said U Sun Oo, president of the Association of Myanmar Architects.

Some 389 pagodas and temples out of a total of 3,252 in Bagan were affected by the earthquake.

Bagan, the country’s major tourist attraction, is home to pagodas and temples dating from the 9th to the 13th centuries.