WASHINGTON — Engineers have begun attaching ropes to the top of the Washington Monument that they will use to rappel up and down the structure to check for cracks and other damage.

One engineer was seen emerging from a hatch at the top of the 555-foot monument shortly after 10 a.m. today.

The exterior inspection of the monument is expected to last five days. It’s part of a thorough assessment of damage caused by a 5.8-magnitude earthquake that shook the nation’s capital on Aug. 23.

The quake caused several cracks to form in the monument. Stones, mortar and other debris fell from its interior and exterior, and the elevator sustained damage.

The monument has been closed to visitors since the earthquake, and there’s no timetable for reopening it or completing repairs.