A magnitude 6.8 earthquake shook central Myanmar on Wednesday, damaging many historic temples dating back to the 11th century. In an ironic twist, much of the damage was actually sustained by modern building materials, which Myanmar’s former rulers had ordered throughout numerous ‘restoration’ projections that disregarded the original architecture of the monuments in question. The powerful earthquake hit 310 miles from the border of India, and was felt as far away as Kolkata, but no deaths have been reported.
Rulers of Bagan, the capital city of the Pagan (pronounced PUH’-gahn) empire, built over 10,000 magnificent religious monuments during their 250-year reign, and around 2,000 were thought to remain prior to this week’s earthquake. Now, scores of stupas, temples, and monasteries may have been destroyed forever by the powerful tremor. Officials have secured the historic sites to prevent further damage or injury, while they devise a plan for how to proceed.
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Despite the age and historic significance of the Bagan monuments, the ruins were denied the label and privilege of World Heritage Site. UNESCO was not impressed with the restoration attempts, which started in the early 1990s, and the site became even less likely to ever receive the honor after the 2005 unveiling of a nearly 200-foot-tall viewing tower, which UNESCO officials criticized as detracting from the historic monuments.
Lead image via USGS