Thailand's Spectacular Ancient Temples Ravaged by Massive Flooding

Thailand's Spectacular Ancient Temples Ravaged by Massive Flooding
Ayutthaya: Thailändische Bauern umschiffen eine riesige Buddha-Statue.
(Foto © Pornchai Kitiiwongsakul/AFP/Getty Images)

The city of Ayutthaya, the former Siamese capital, was destroyed by Burmese invaders in the 18th century. Two centuries later, in 1991, its Ayutthaya Historical Park complex of over 400 temples dating as far back as 1350 was painstakingly restored and was named a UNESCO World Heritage site. But now, following historic flooding in the region, the temples have sustained severe damage and may even be in danger of collapsing.

Monsoons hit the country in July and last month floodwaters reached Ayutthaya, which is 50 miles north of Bangkok. Although seasonal flooding is common in this region, "the monuments' construction was not designed to carry this much weight" from floodwaters, the historical site's director, Chaiyanand Busayarat, told AFP. "The floods have also softened the ground, making it unstable. Buildings could sink, or, in the worst case, they might collapse." The waters have mostly receded, but some outlying temples are still flooded. After visiting the area on Thursday, UNESCO investigators stated that it was still too early to tell the extent of the damage.

According to People's Daily, the flooding affected 420 of 505 temples in the region. Damages to the temple complex, which is one of Thailand's biggest tourist attractions, have been estimated by various sources between $20 and $30 million. Many homes and factories were also casualties of the flooding, which left behind a death toll of 600 people across Thailand.