05/26/2015, 00.00
NEPAL
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Nepalese authorities ban entry to the Hindu and Buddhist religious sites for fear of collapse

by Christopher Sharma
Concerns about the continuing aftershocks. Ban focuses on Hindu and Buddhist temples, located on hills and mountains at risk of landslides. The roads leading to the temples will be washed away by monsoon rains, coming in a few weeks. Temples are surrounded by crowded shacks and houses that could collapse along with the religious places.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The Nepalese authorities have decided to ban entry to Hindu and Buddhist sacred places devastated by the powerful earthquake that struck the country on April 25. The ban will apply both to the local faithful and foreigners.

Authorities fear new collapses, after the destruction of most of the temples of the 14 most affected districts (out of 75) in the country, as well as 55% of prisons and 90% of buildings. Only a few religious sites survived the powerful earthquakes, but are in critical condition and in danger of collapsing with new aftershocks or with the arrival of the winds of the monsoon season.

Bheshnarayan Dahal, director general of the Ministry of Archaeolog, told AsiaNews: "Most of the old structures are cracked and in danger of collapse from one moment to the next, even from strong winds or rain. If a tourist were to be hurt [from possible collapse - ed], it would be a very damaging image for Nepal. So we alerted all the local and foreign faithful not to travel to religious and cultural sites. "

The ban applies in particular to Hindu and Buddhist places of worship because these "are located in mountainous or hilly areas. So in addition to the collapse due to the earthquake, there is a risk of landslides and other natural disasters. We decided to take this measure to ensure the safety of persons. It shall remain in force until we have rebuilt or made the structures safe".

The potential danger of damaged roads and mountain areas is also confirmed by Umesh Jha, director of the Infrastructures Division: "The roads were damaged by the quake. The earthquake not only shook roads and bridges, many have rips and cracks”.  The official says he is  worried that "the temples and monasteries in Nepal are usually placed on top of hills and mountains, reached through rough roads. The arrival of the monsoon season is expected in three weeks; many streets will be swept away and transport will stop. This may deter pilgrimages and will create disincentives because of the danger of landslides. We're trying to take precautions, but we have limited resources. "

The religious sites are also surrounded by houses and huts, built without a planning, which are likely to collapse along with the walls of temples. For this reason, the Minister of Tourism Kripasur Sherpa decided to prohibit transit in the capital in the area adjacent to 20 temples.

The latest figures provided by the police speak of 8,700 confirmed dead and about 23 thousand seriously injuries. Thousands of earthquake victims are still living outdoors and fear the continuing aftershocks which last week caused the collapse of a wall near the Baniyatar Catholic church (in Kathmandu valley) and the death of a Catholic girl of 16.

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