Preah Khan Damaged After Storm Uproots Large Tree

The northern gate of the Preah Khan temple inside the Angkor Archaeological Park was damaged on Friday when a 30-meter-tall tree was uprooted during a heavy rainstorm and came crashing down on the 12th century structure.

The tree smashed through eight large stones that supported one of the ancient structure’s main gates, said Bun Narith, director-general of the Apsara Au­thority, a government body that manages the temples in the Angkor park complex. No one was injured by the falling tree, Mr. Narith said.

A tree uprooted in a rainstorm on Friday lies on top of the northern gate of Preah Khan temple in Siem Reap province. (Lim Cheavutha)
A tree uprooted in a rainstorm on Friday lies on top of the northern gate of Preah Khan temple in Siem Reap province. (Lim Cheavutha)

“One big tree collapsed on Friday at 11:30 a.m. because of strong wind and heavy rains, which caused damage to Preah Khan temple on the front gate of the northern temple entrance breaking many stones,” Mr. Narith said.

The Apsara Authority is now working to remove the tree, a section of which was still lying on top of the temple’s roof as of late Sunday.

“We have to cut the trunk to move it from the temple, but this is hard to do because of the floodwater from all the raining,” Mr. Narith said.

“There is just too much water and it has made the roots of the big trees unstable,” he added.

Located in the heart of the most highly protected zone of the Angkor World Heritage site, Preah Khan—which translates literally as holy sword—was commissioned by King Jayavarman VII to honor his father’s memory.

Originally called Nagara Jayasri, or the holy city of victory, the temple’s complex consists of numerous shrines and intervening courts, which are surrounded by a small moat and a sturdy wall. Flanking the four gateways into the temple’s main precinct are statues of gods and giants holding sacred nagas.

Im Sokrithy, chief of the information department at the Apsara Authority, said Preah Khan is known for having a mix of gods within its temple walls. The main temple is dedicated to Buddhism, while another was built to honor the Hindu god Vishnu.

The northern section of the temple damaged by the tree was built to worship Shiva, the Hindu god whose role is to destroy the world so that it can be recreated.

Contradicting Mr. Narith, Mr. Sokrithy said the damage to the temple was not so bad and that it would be fully restored.

“We have a team working on [removing the tree]…. We have collected all the stones and we will restore it afterward,” he added.

Like the 12th century Ta Prohm temple, which King Jaya­varman VII built in dedication to his mother, Preah Khan is surrounded by vegetation and large trees whose roots and trunks have encroached on some of its walls.

Yin Sovath, deputy chief of the Apsara Authority’s forestry and landscape environment department, said that more than 10 trees were uprooted in the Angkor park during Friday’s storm, though only Preah Khan temple suffered any damage.

“Angkor Thom also had a tree collapse and it crashed on the head of a giant lion statue, but it was not destroyed,” Mr. Sovath said, adding that three trees had fallen into the moat around Angkor Wat.

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