Pompeii collapses 'exaggerated' by media, site chief says

Efforts to protect ancient city 'progressing'

16 November, 14:25

    (ANSAmed) - Paestum, November 16 - Recent collapses at the ancient city of Pompeii had been exaggerated by the media and efforts to protect the site are progressing, according to the Special Archaeological Superintendent for Naples and Pompeii, Teresa Elena Cinquantaquattro.

    Cinquantaquattro was speaking along with other senior archaeological officials from the culture ministry at the 15th annual Mediterranean Archaeological Tourism Exchange in Paestum on how to conserve sites in southern Italy in a climate of shrinking government funds. "Problems exist at Pompeii but they have been exaggerated by negative journalists," Cinquantaquattro told ANSA.

    After recent falls of structures in the past two years there has been growing concern about Italy's ability to protect the 2,000-year-old site from further degradation and the impact of the local mafia, the Camorra. In April this year a wall surrounding an ancient villa at Pompeii collapsed just two weeks after the Italian government launched a joint 105-million-euro project with the European Union to save the UNESCO World Heritage site.

    The joint project is for the 'preservation, maintenance and improvement' of the site to ensure its future as a tourist attraction.

    Cinquantaquattro said the EU funds were being provided in six stages and the conservation project was expected to be completed by 2015.

    Funds are for protecting buildings at the archaeological site, building a better water drainage system and better staff training and management.

    Figures released at the exchange by the culture ministry showed that 44% of archaeological sites in the Magna Grecia area of southern Italy were closed to the public due to lack of funds or adequate staffing.

    Pompeii was destroyed when a volcanic eruption from nearby Mount Vesuvius buried the city in ash in 79AD and it now attracts more than 2.5 million visitors a year. In October 2011, torrential rainfall caused serious damage to the world famous archaeological site, while violent storms had already caused its partial collapse in 2010. (ANSAmed).

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