Two more walls collapse at crumbling Pompeii

Wed Dec 1, 2010 12:58pm EST
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ROME (Reuters) - Two walls crumbled at the ruins of Pompeii Wednesday, the latest of four collapses in a month at the 2,000-year-old Roman-era site whose decay has become an embarrassment for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government.

A statement from Pompeii's archaeological superintendent department said the collapse involved an area two metres (yards) high and three metres wide of the wall along one of the site's main streets, the Via Stabiana.

A small chunk of a side room in the "House of the Small Lupanar," which was not open to the public, also fell, the statement said, adding both collapses were probably due to the heavy rains of the last few days.

Tuesday, a section of a modern retaining wall in the "House of the Moralist" crumbled and on November 6 the "House of the Gladiators" collapsed, shining a spotlight on the decay of the ancient city buried by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

Archaeologists, commentators and opposition politicians have accused Berlusconi's government of neglect and mismanagement of the UNESCO world heritage site, which has long been plagued by poor maintenance and lack of funds.

Culture Minister Sandro Bondi, who faces a no-confidence motion over the issue, says he is not to blame.

"Between September 2003 and February 2010 there have been 16 collapses at Pompeii -- so you see they don't just happen when the center-right is in government," he told Corriere della Sera Wednesday.

The Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said it would send a team of experts on Thursday to investigate the state of the archaeological site.

"This reactive monitoring mission will seek to identify potential threats to other structures at the site and possible measures, including the implementation of legal and management provisions, to avoid any further incidents," the U.N. agency said in a statement.

Pompeii was inscribed on UNESCO's list of world heritage sites in 1997.

(Reporting by Antonella Cinelli; Additional reporting by Leigh Thomas in Paris; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

<p>A tourist takes a picture of a statue in front of a long section of a rustic retaining wall in the garden of the House of the Moralist, which collapsed after heavy rains in Pompeii November 30, 2010. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca</p>