Last updated: 05:29 PM ET, Wed August 24 2016

Myanmar Earthquake Kills At Least One, Damages Historic Temples

Impacting Travel | Michael Schottey | August 24, 2016

Myanmar Earthquake Kills At Least One, Damages Historic Temples

Digital illustration by Barry Kaufman

An earthquake in the ancient city of Bagan in Myanmar has claimed at least one life and has done potentially incalculable damage to religious pagodas at the historical site.

The 6.8-magnitude tremor started in nearby Magway region (about 50 miles away from Old Bagan) and claimed the life of a 22-year-old man according to a local official as reported first by The Bangkok Post. Others across the country were injured.

The earthquake was powerful enough to be felt in Thailand, India and Bangladesh—a distance of over 500 miles.

In Bagan, an area the Myanmar government has long hoped could win UNESCO World Heritage Site status, the damage could potentially be a final blow for an ancient city with rich heritage. 60 of the site’s pagodas were damaged and some extensively so. Walls have collapsed, ceilings are caved in, and once-proud spires have crumbled under the violent shaking of the earth below.

The New York Times shared terrifying video of the quake on Twitter:

Myanmar—a country just recently open to Western tourists—is no stranger to earthquakes. In fact, earthquakes are an integral part to the story of modern Bagan. Over 400 such quakes had been recorded in Bagan between 1904 and 1975 according to a report from the UNESCO Courier. Because of that massive geological phenomenon, the government undertook a massive reconstruction project at Bagan than was panned by the international historical and art communities.

Many believe it is that reconstruction that has kept the otherwise-worthy Bagan from becoming a world heritage site.

Since then, Bagan has not had a major earthquake, and the local population has continued to grow a tourism location that is now at risk.  Malinda Perera — manager of Bagan Lodge, a luxury hotel — was quoted by The Bangkok Post:

"All of our guests rushed to the two assembly points outside the hotel calmly. They handled it nicely and weren't panicked at all. The hotel building wasn't damaged. Only some water glasses and plates were broken. It’s still safe to visit Bagan."

Much of the damage in Bagan was centered at the famous Sulamani Temple, one of over 2,500 Buddhist temples which are a pilgrimage site not only for tourists, but nearby worshippers as well. 


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