Italy pledges to fix up Pompeii

Cash to repair rain-damaged World Heritage site to be released following anger over slow pace of EU-backed restoration.

    Italy is to unblock about $2.8 million to save the long-neglected Roman ruins of Pompeii after rain caused further damage to the UNESCO World Heritage landmark.

    The Italian culture minister, Dario Franceschini said on tuesday that he was "unblocking many measures which will get the machine working" amid anger about the slow pace of a multi-million EU-backed project to restore the site.

    Franceschini's statement came after the Temple of Venus and the walls of a tomb and shop in the archaeological site near Naples were damaged by rainfall on Sunday and Monday.

    The EU regional policy commissioner, Johannes Hahn, said that "every collapse is a huge defeat" and urged Italy "to take care of Pompeii, because it is emblematic not only for Europe but also for the world".

    Franceschini stressed that the EU "can be sure that Italy is taking care of Pompeii, both in terms of emergency measures and in the long term".

    In addition to the $2.8 million, Rome has also proposed a deal with the aerospace company, Finmeccanica, to use some of its satellite technology for site maintenance and weather warnings.

    Last year, conservation workers began a $144-million makeover of Pompeii, funded by the EU to the tune of $57.4 million.

    But according to the Corriere della Sera daily, only $807,000 - just 0.56 per cent of the funds - has been spent so far.

    The project is seen as crucial to the survival of Pompeii after a series of collapses at the 44-hectare site in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius - the volcano that destroyed the city in 79 AD.



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