Ayutthaya: The ruined temples of Ayutthaya have survived centuries of tropical heat and rain, but experts fear some have been weakened by Thailand's devastating floods and may be at risk of collapse.
Unusually heavy monsoon rains caused a deluge that swept across much of central and northern Thailand from July, leaving more than 600 people dead and damaging millions of homes and livelihoods.
Ayutthaya, around 80 kilometres north of Bangkok, was in one of the worst-hit parts of the country and dramatic aerial images last month showed its temples as islands in a vast lake of floodwater.
The structures spent weeks swamped by the murky waters and now fresh cracks have appeared in some of the pagodas that dominate the historic capital, a major tourist attraction and UNESCO World Heritage site.
As the waters retreat, visitors have been warned not to climb onto the structures in case they collapse.
Chaiyanand Busayarat, director of Ayutthaya Historical Park, estimated at least 650 million baht (USD 20 million) worth of damage had been done, but said the full consequences of the floods were not yet known.
"The monuments' construction was not designed to carry this much weight (of water). The floods have also softened the ground, making it unstable. Buildings could sink or, in the worst case, they might collapse," he said.
The waters have receded from much of the centre of the city, although some of the many temple compounds dotted around the historical park site are yet to fully dry out.
First Published: Sunday, November 20, 2011, 12:26