Floodwaters Damage Temples in Mrauk-U

By Moe Myint 5 August 2015

The Ministry of Culture’s Archeology Department and the National Museum of Myanmar reported on Wednesday that three pagodas and a repository of Buddhist scriptures had been flooded in the last week. The grounds of the palace in the center of Mrauk-U, the seat of the Arakanese kingdom between the 15th and 18th centuries, were also inundated during the recent deluge.

U Sun Win, assistant director of the sub-regional Archeology Department, said that low-lying temples and buildings were vulnerable as a result of flood damage.

“Some of the stone pagodas are cracked at the base,” he said. “We will need to do maintenance work because the foundation stones will have less strength than normal. [Importantly], we need to erect fences to protect the pagodas.”

He added that the nearby Danyawaddy and Vesali palaces had also suffered minor damage in the floods, but most of the city’s famous pagodas had been spared because they sat higher than the flood peak.

Local resident Aung Soe Myint told The Irrawaddy that Ba Saw Phyu Pagoda had cracked while the interior areas of Mintwutsae and Shwe Maw Daw pagodas were completely submerged. Other locals were unable to confirm the extent of the damage to low-lying buildings, as they were busy with local flood relief efforts.

Home to some 380 stone temples, Mrauk-U is one of Burma’s largest tourist attractions and an enduring center of Arakanese culture. The Burmese government and Arakan State authorities announced plans to nominate the site for the Unesco World Heritage list in February, and began taking measures to improve preservation of Buddhist temples and other buildings dating back to the Arakanese kingdom.

After nearly two weeks of heavy rains, Arakan State was one of the four regions declared to be a disaster zone by the Burmese government over the weekend.

Hla Thein, the director of the Arakan State Department of Information, said on Wednesday that at least 39 people had died in the state since the flooding crisis began, along with the loss of 900 cattle and the destruction of 200,000 acres of rice paddy fields. Dozens of schools and monasteries across Arakan State have also been destroyed.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Monday that over 2,000 people from Mrauk-U were taking shelter in 15 evacuation centers across the township.