Ayutthaya historical site submerged

Ayutthaya heritage site swamped by 2m of water

Published on 5 October 2011

Author(s): Bangkok Post

Type:  News

Officials struggled to drain water from World Heritage-listed Wat Chai Watthanaram after powerful overflow from the Chao Phraya River burst through an embankment and gushed into the 500-year-old temple.

The sudden surge put the temple, located on about 100 rai of land in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya district, under two metres of swirling floodwater in just 10 minutes early yesterday.

The Portuguese Village, a traders' settlement during the ancient Ayutthaya Kingdom, was also badly hit.

The deluge also swept past the Ban Pom-Khlong Ta Khian road into a community behind Wat Chai Watthanaram, engulfing more than 200 homes.

Most residents, many still asleep, were caught off-guard and had to act quickly to save themselves and their belongings.

Provincial officials were ordered yesterday to quickly repair the flood wall and drain the temple grounds.

Ayutthaya governor Witthaya Piewpong said he hoped this would minimise damage to the ancient site.

A group of about 100 fine arts employees who have worked to protect the temple during the flooding season for decades were saddened by the events.

Ancient stupas at Wat Chai Watthanaram are left under two metres of floodwater after overflow from the Chao Phraya River.jpg
Ancient stupas at Wat Chai Watthanaram are left under two metres of floodwater after overflow from the Chao Phraya River burst through an embankment and inundated the temple’s compound in Ayutthaya’s Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya district. Inset: The temple before it was suddenly inundated. SUNTHORN PONGPAO

"We have a strong bond with this place," said employee Samli Bamphensin, 60. "We're very sorry it has finally been submerged."

The employees took turns guarding the site around the clock and regularly checked and repaired the flood wall.

However, their efforts were dashed when floodwater came bursting into their cherished temple.

The suddenness of the inundation sparked widespread speculation yesterday that Ayutthaya city centre, where the Chao Phraya, Pasak, Lob Buri and Noi rivers merge, may no longer be able to hold back the water.

However, Wim Rungwattanajinda, secretary of the Secretariat of the Prime Minister, was quick to ease fears.

He said although all 16 districts in the province have been declared disaster zones, only three historical sites had been flooded.

Besides Wat Chai Watthanaram and the Portuguese Village, the 500-year-old Pom Petch fort has been also been submerged by overflow from both the Chao Phraya and Pasak rivers.

It has prompted Suphot Phrommanot, director of the fine arts office in Ayutthaya, to order further reinforcement of flood walls at Wat Thammaram, Wat Kasattrathirat and the Portuguese Village.

The temple before it was suddenly inundated..jpg
The temple before it was suddenly inundated.

Also in Ayutthaya, overflow from the Lop Buri and Pa Sak rivers entered Saha Rattana Nakorn Industrial Estate in Nakhon Luang district, home to 50 factories. Water hit some factories last night.

The Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand has urged factories in the area to cease operations for five days to prevent damage to production facilities, said IEAT deputy governor Narapot Tewtanom.

"The flood situation in Ayutthaya is quite serious because the province has three industrial estates which house around 300 factories and areas surrounding the industial estates have been inundated," he said.

The swelling rivers in Ayutthaya have also flooded many roads, paralysing traffic.

However, major historical and residential areas in Muang district have remained free of flooding but, according to media reports, it is also "on the verge of being submerged".

Parts of Uthong Road, which is used as a dyke to protect Muang district from river overflow, were flooded yesterday. Officials had to reinforce a temporary flood wall built on the road.

The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department reported Tuesday the ongoing floods have affected 28 provinces with 237 deaths and three persons missing.

Supertyphone Nalgae was downgraded to a tropical storm as it slammed into central Vietnam, and will move over the Northeast and Central regions by Wednesday. Heavy rain and mudslides are expected.

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