Whilst the floodwaters across Bangkok continue to recede and people can think about returning to their homes and businesses, the process of repairing damaged infrastructure can begin. But in the nearby ancient city of Ayutthaya there are concerns that the receding floodwaters may have caused irreparable damage.
These temples of Ayutthaya, some 80 kilometres to the north of Bangkok, which make up the Ayutthaya Historical Park, have survived the ravages of earthquakes and flooding in the past. So what makes this recent flood so potentially damaging to the UNESCO World Heritage Site?
This year’s flooding across Thailand may have been the worst in living memory but one would expect that the temples, many of them more than 700 years old, would have seen far worse over the centuries. Indeed, lying at the confluence of the Chao Phraya, Pa Sak and Lopburi rivers, flooding around the temple complexes has been an almost annual occurrence since their construction.
In the past, the temples were protected by a network of canals that tended to drain the floodwaters away from the site. But in recent years the canals have either been filled in or have silted over with time.
As a result, 2011’s rains saw deep floodwaters which appear to have destabilized the ground and caused cracks in some of the pagodas. Visitors have been warned not to climb on the structured in case they collapse. Damage is estimated at around $20 million.
In addition, the temples have been covered in the detritus of the floodwaters – tree branches, plastic etc and people seeking refuge from the floods have left piles of rubbish, including a rusting tuk tuk taxi.
It may be many months before the site is restored to its former glory.