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Ancient Hindu Temple Damaged in Indonesian Earthquake


Parts of the world famous Prambanan temple complex in Central Java crumbled during last week's 6.3 magnitude earthquake. Archaeologists are assessing damage to the UNESCO World Heritage site, but fear the foundations of the ancient stone structures may be severely weakened.

A groundskeeper crouches next to one of the crumbling shrines at the Prambanan site, cutting the grass with a sickle. It is eerily quiet at the 10th century Hindu compound just a week after the earthquake struck - sending hundreds of intricately carved stones to the ground.

This is the largest temple complex in Indonesia dedicated to the Hindu divinity of Shiva. It has eight main structures and more than 250 smaller ones. The compound underwent extensive reconstruction from 1918 to 1953 and now much of that work has been undone.

One of many archaeologists studying the site, Aristia Studi, says the first priority will be to stabilize the damaged structures and find out how deeply the foundation may have shifted from the quake.

She says if the largest buildings need reconstruction, it will take lot of time to restore depending on how many people can be deployed to work on the site.

Herdi Bramasudi, with the Yogyakarta Tourism and Archaeological Agency, says the next few years will be painstaking and require a massive effort, as archaeologists may have to rebuild the site from the ground up.

She says seeing the Prambanan complex in such a condition is heartbreaking.

"I feel like I will cry all the time. Because we have - we already love the temple," she said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhuyono last week called for UNESCO to help Indonesia rebuild the site.

The temple complex brings vital tourism money to central Java. Yogyakarta is second only to Bali among Indonesian tourist attractions, with more than a million visitors a year.

Officials with the country's Archaeological Conservation Agency say damage assessment will take months to complete, during which time the site will be closed to the public.

The site is considered to be one of the most important examples of Hindu architecture, and serves as a reminder of the predominantly Muslim country's Hindu past.

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