Yogyakarta. The ninth-century Borobudur Buddhist temple complex in Central Java reopened on Sunday after being closed for four days when ash from the Mount Merapi volcano blanketed the region.
More than 50 workers and conservation officials have been busy cleaning off volcanic ash and dust from the temple, said the head of Borobudur’s conservation office, Marsis Sutopo.
“We had to be extra careful when cleaning it so we chose to do it by hand,” he said. “We cleaned every inch with brushes, as well as using vacuum cleaners on some of the ash. The last step was to spray the stones with water.”
Volcanic ash and dust carried by the wind covered Borobudur and its surrounding areas.
On Saturday, a major eruption sent ash across much of Yogyakarta, just south of Merapi.
It was feared the volcanic ash, which was about four millimeters thick, could corrode the porous stone temple.
The cleanup operation started with the highest platform and progressed downward.
Pujo Suwarno, head of the Borobudur Tourism Park, said the closure was also sparked by health worries as the dust could be dangerous if inhaled.
“The work was complex and we had to be careful,” he said.
Purnomo Siswo Prasetyo, the chief executive of the temple’s management company, said that although the monument itself was closed, visitors were still allowed to approach.
“We let them come up to grassy area in front of Borobudur Temple. After that, the tourism agency guided them to Prambanan Temple in Klaten, Central Java,” he said.
Purnomo said visitor numbers had dropped 30 percent because of the closure.
The terraced temple usually sees more than 10,000 visitors on weekends.
He said a dance performance on Saturday had raised Rp 100 million ($11,000), which would be donated to those displaced by the volcano.