ROME (Reuters) - Another part of the 2,000-year-old Roman-era site at Pompeii crumbled on Tuesday, provoking attacks on the Italian government from critics who say two collapses in a month underscore a need for urgent action.
Officials said a seven-meter (yard) long section of a modern retaining wall in the garden of the “House of the Moralist” at the archaeological site collapsed after heavy rains.
The collapse was a new headache for the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, which will face a no-confidence motion on other issues on December 14 that could lead to early elections.
The opposition has demanded Berlusconi’s culture minister Sandro Bondi resign, adding to the tensions ahead of the vote.
The wall, made of tuffo stone and mortar, was part of a perimeter area of the house complex, which is also known as the House of Epidius Hymenaeus.
The house itself was not affected by the collapse and the wall was not ancient. It was built after World War Two to repair the original structure, which had been bombed in the conflict.
Bondi, who first came under pressure to resign after the collapse on November 6 of part of the “House of the Gladiators,” tried to play down the significance of Tuesday’s break up.
“We need to put what happened into context and avoid useless alarmism,” he said in a statement.
Politicians and archaeologists still criticized the government, saying much more had to be done to protect the ancient city buried by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
“Little or nothing has been done to protect this immense patrimony,” said Claudio D‘Alessio, mayor of modern Pompeii, whose economy revolves in great part around tourism.
“Despite all the attention (after the November 6 collapse), we are still talking about collapses,” he said, adding that the government should have enacted an emergency intervention three weeks ago.
Art historians and residents have for years complained that the archaeological sites at Pompeii, just south of Naples, were in a state of decay and needed regular maintenance.
“This is just proof of the incompetent way that minister Bondi and this government are handling the situation at Pompeii,” said Tsao Cevoli, president of Italy’s National Association of Archaeologists.
He said Bondi had made “two years of errors” since taking office and had shown himself to be “incapable of managing the real emergency that exists there today.”
Archaeologists and opposition politicians accused Italy’s government of neglect and mismanagement at the UNESCO world heritage site.
“One thing that is absolutely clear about this whole story is the government’s lack of interest in maintaining our cultural and artistic treasures,” said Felice Belisario of the opposition Italy of Values party.
About 2.5 million tourists visit Pompeii each year, making it one of Italy’s most popular attractions, and many have expressed shock at the site’s decay.
Pompeii is dogged by a lack of investment, mismanagement, litter and looting while bogus tour guides, illegal parking attendants and stray dogs also plague visitors.
Two-thirds of the 66-hectare (165-acre) town, home to some 13,000 people in the Roman era, have been uncovered since serious excavations began about 260 years ago.
The remaining third is still buried and many modern buildings have been constructed over it, making future excavations virtually impossible.