Pompeii column collapse revives concerns over site

Thu Dec 22, 2011 2:15pm EST
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By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) - A courtyard column of a Roman house in Pompeii collapsed on Thursday, renewing concerns about the state of the site which was frozen in time when Mount Vesuvius erupted 2,000 years ago, burying inhabitants alive and preserving their homes.

Last year the Italian government was accused of neglecting the UNESCO World Heritage site near Naples in southern Italy when part of the "House of the Gladiators" fell down.

That collapse, along with three others in 2010, and the subsequent accusations of neglect and mismanagement, helped trigger a no-confidence vote against former culture minister Sandro Bondi in January.

Bondi, a member of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right government, survived the vote but quit in March.

Officials said the latest part of the site to crumble was one of several columns that once held up wooden trellises in the house where Loreio Tiburtino, a Roman nobleman, lived.

Built in the second century BC, the house was renovated in 62 AD, 17 years before the cataclysmic eruption.

"This is a torment without end," said Luisa Bossa, a lawmaker from the leftist opposition Democratic Party and former mayor of the Naples-area town of Herculaneum, also a major Roman-era archeological site.

"We have been complaining for three years but the country's most important archeological area continues to fall apart. The truth is that the site has been left alone for years and now, a bit at a time, we are paying the price," she said.   Continued...