The number of temples in the ancient city of Bagan that were damaged by the earthquake that struck central Burma on Wednesday has risen to around 390, according to officials from the Department of Archaeology.
The latest figure is more than double that of initial reports, which put the number of temples that suffered severe damage at 180. The Department of Archaeology is now conducting a more in-depth survey of the destruction that will include less extensive damage.
“We will also be also taking into account minor damage at smaller temples in our survey,” the department’s deputy-director Thein Lwin told DVB on Friday. he added that the survey expected to find that more of the roughly 3,000 temples at the site were damaged by the 6.8-magnitude earthquake.
Several historically important temples, including Watgyiinn, Gupyaukgyi, Htilo Minlo, Sulamani, Pyathadgyi, Sedanagyi and Dhammayangyi, were among those that suffered major damage, according to the department, which said that it would take several years to repair them.
Thein Lwin said that most of the damage seen at the temples was in sectors that underwent drastic renovation work — in some cases complete reconstruction — in the 1990s under Burma’s former military regime. He said that this time, his department would advise against such reconstruction efforts, noting that previous work on the temples had posed challenges to Burma’s bid to have Bagan listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Of the 390 temples that suffered severe damage, 33 have been deemed unsafe and have been closed to the public.
Bagan also experienced a major earthquake in 1975 that left thousands of temples damaged. A strong 6.8- magnitude earthquake that was centred in Magwe Division’s Chauk Township last year did not cause any major damage.
The day after the earthquake, President Htin Kyaw went to inspect the destruction of the temples in Bagan. He pledged to repair the damage, but said that the government would work together with international experts to ensure that historic value would remain intact.