Ancient temples suffer Chiangmai quake damage

TNA, June 21, 2007

Chiang Mai, Thailand -- Cracks have been found in an historic 400-year-old temple in the northern province of Chiang Mai following several recent earthquakes, moderate in impact but adding to the cumulative damage suffered over time.

Cracks were found in the walls of the over 400-year-old assembly hall and the principle Buddha image in Wat Saohin here after a 4.5 magnitude earthquake rocked the province on Tuesday.

Murals that were painted more than a century ago, telling stories of the former incarnations of the Lord Buddha, were also damaged.

Abbot and rector Boonsong Kantathammo said that the cracks were present prior to the earthquake as the temple is four centuries old, but the cracks are widening following several tremors this year.

The temple has officially requested the Fine Arts Department to restore its structures because they are now vulnerable to further earthquakes which could more easily cause extensive damage to the temple, or even collapse the assembly hall.

Elsewhere in the province, the Royal Irrigation Department has inspected two dams and found no damage at all.

However, historic structures predating the founding of the Chiang Saen kingdom over seven hundred years ago are at risk, according to Director-General Theerawat Kunwanit of the Department of Public Works and Town and Country Planning after he inspected the ancient Wat Phrathat in Chiang Rai's Chiang Saen district, along the Mekong River.

Mr. Theerawat said the crown of the chedi collapsed due to the May 16 earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.1 on the Richter scale, which rocked mainland Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle region.

Restoration work on the chedi is half complete, he said, adding that the department had declared several provinces vulnerable to occasional moderate earthquakes, and that construction should consequently take earthquakes into account.

An earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale shook Chiang Mai's Mae Rim district on December 19 last year, followed by a 4.2-magnitude on the Myanmar border with Thailand's Mae Hong Son province on Monday.