Hanoi, Dec. 31--(AP) Vietnamese authorities have begun closing 42 fake temples built at a famous pilgrimage site to attract donations from unsuspecting visitors, an official said Monday.

The move came in response to a public outcry over the false temples at the famed Perfume Pagoda, said Nguyen Chi Thanh, chairman of the People's Committee of Huong Son village in Ha Tay province, where the pagoda is located. The site, where dozens of Buddhist temples are built into limestone cliffs, attracts a half million visitors each year during the three-month Lunar New Year pilgrimage season. On Sunday, nearly 150 officials closed the first six fake temples and another 11 were to be closed Monday, Thanh said. Authorities confiscated the Buddha statues, incense jars and other items of worship from the closed temples, he said.

Authorities faced almost no opposition from the 32 private operators of the 42 fake temples, most of which were built in 1995-1996, Thanh said. Officials plan to close all fake temples in the area by Sunday and will decide later which fake temples will be demolished and which might be renovated to serve as rest places for pilgrims.

The Perfume Pagoda, 70 kilometers (45 miles) west of Hanoi, is one of Vietnam's most popular sites. Thirty-one temples and caves are recognized as historical relics in the Perfume Pagoda area, where people go to pray for good health and prosperity.

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