Collapsed wall in Pompeii raises concern over decay

Reuters, ROME

Sun, Dec 02, 2012 - Page 6

Part of the wall of a house in the ancient city of Pompeii collapsed on Friday, raising fresh concerns about the state of one of the world’s most treasured archeological sites.

Officials said the wall was part of a 2,000-year-old house on the Vicolo del Modesto, in a section of the site that had already been declared off limits to the public for safety reasons.

About two square meters of the wall were involved in the collapse, which occurred after heavy rain storms in most of southern Italy.

The street where the collapse took place is located in an area of the dig that came to light in excavations in the 19th century.

Ancient Pompeii, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, was frozen in time when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, burying inhabitants alive and preserving their homes.

It has been the scene of a string of collapses in recent years, sparking international concern about the decay and perilous condition of the site. There were at least two serious collapses last year and four in 2010.

The most serious was in 2010 when part of the “House of the Gladiators” — once used by gladiators to train before combat — crumbled.

Manuela Ghizzoni, head of the culture commission in the Italian lower house of parliament, asked Italian Culture Minister Lorenzo Ornaghi to refer to the Chamber on the state of Pompeii and the progress in the use of 105 million euros (US$136.56 million) in Italian and EU funds to restore the ancient city.

“The new collapse at Pompeii today underscores the need to monitor the situation continually and draw up an immediate management plan that guarantees the protection of a world-renowned archaeological site and recognizes its value,” she said.

Pompeii was home to about 13,000 people when it was buried under ash, pumice pebbles and dust in 79 AD as it endured the force of an eruption. Two-thirds of the 66 hectare town has since been uncovered.

Pompeii attracts 2.5 million tourists each year, making it one of Italy’s most popular attractions.