Tue, May 30, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Indonesia earthquake: Famous temple complex likely to be closed for months

THE GUARDIAN , YOGYAKARTA

Indonesian officials yesterday push a part of Prambanan temple that broke when Saturday's earthquake rocked southern Yogyakarta.

PHOTO: EPA

One of Indonesia's most famous tourist attractions, the Prambanan Hindu temple complex, is likely to be closed for months after being badly damaged in the earthquake, a conservation expert predicted.

It is unclear what impact the earthquake will have on the tourism industry in a region that was considered to be Indonesia's second most popular destination after Bali.

Prambanan, which was built between the eighth and 10th centuries and is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, lies 16km east of Yogyakarta.

On Sunday large chunks of the temple could be seen scattered on the ground around its eight shrines.

Agus Waluyo, the head of the Yogyakarta Archaeological Conservation Agency, said the damage was significant.

"It will take months to identify the precise damage," he said.

He said the UN world heritage site would remain closed during this assessment process.

The region's other great religious monument, the massive Buddhist Borobudur stupa built between 750 and 850, was not damaged because it is 24km northwest of Yogyakarta, well outside the affected area.

Thamrin Bachri, Indonesia's deputy tourism minister, said a recovery strategy was being planned.

"Of course we're expecting a drop in arrivals in the short term because they do not yet consider Yogyakarta safe," he said.

"We are already preparing a communication and promotion strategy to explain to overseas markets that they should not cross the area off their lists," he said. "From an image perspective we expect to rehabilitate Yogyakarta in six months."

But last night, hoteliers were pessimistic about the next few months.

"Hopefully we'll see an increase in domestic arrivals in sympathy for the people's plight here but I expect foreigners to stay away," said one hotel general manager who asked not to be named.

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