Pompeii collapses spark worry and outrage

Sun Dec 12, 2010 9:46am EST
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By Philip Pullella

POMPEII, Italy (Reuters) - Pompeii mayor Claudio D'Alessio does not want to go down in history linked with Pliny the Younger, the Roman who chronicled the destruction of the ancient city nearly 2,000 ago in an eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

"The city is suffering and losing its pieces," said D'Alessio as he stood near the Via dell' Abbondanza, the main street leading from the columns of the Forum in the ancient city that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

D'Alessio is worried not only because he loves culture. He knows that the economy of his modern city of 25,000 people relies heavily on tourists who come from all over the world to see the famed archaeological site.

Last month the "House of the Gladiator" and a long retaining wall in the garden of the "House of the Moralist" collapsed.

The collapses sparked charges of official neglect by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's center-right government and calls for the resignation of Culture Minister Sandro Bondi, who has imposed cuts to arts spending as part of austerity measures.

"We don't have the luxury of waiting. We can't wait for other collapses. We need an immediate intervention to heal years of delays and neglect," D'Alessio said.

Like many other cultural heritage sites in Italy, ancient Pompeii is an engine of local economic growth that supports hotels, restaurants, guides, transportation and travel agencies.


<p>Workers stand by debris after a house, once used by gladiators to train before combat, collapsed in Pompeii November 6, 2010. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca</p>