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Pompeii to get foundation after Gladiator School collapse

Culture minister rejects calls to resign

10 November, 13:30
Pompeii to get foundation after Gladiator School collapse (ANSA) - Rome, November 10 - The government is to set up a new foundation for Pompeii after the weekend collapse of its famous Gladiator School, Culture Minister Sandro Bondi said Wednesday.

Rejecting calls that he should resign over the incident, Bondi claimed he had done a "good job" on Pompeii in appointing special officials for its upkeep.

"The collapse of one building can't wipe out the work we have done over the past two years".

But he acknowledged more needed to be done and announced a new foundation where the culture ministry would work with experts to better use the money that comes from millions of visitors.

"The problem is in the management, not in resources," he told parliament, saying the ancient site brought an average of more than 50 million euros ($70 million) a year. "We need management that uses the resources better".

"Therefore, the ministry is drafting guidelines for a Pompeii Foundation; the superintendents and culture minister managers must work together".

The new body, Bondi said, would "assess the state of decay" all over the ancient city and decide what action to take. Work would resume on five Pompeii houses including the famous Villa of the Mysteries "in the next few days", he said, denying reports that two other houses were damaged when the Gladiator School came down on Saturday morning.

The reports were a sign of "groundless alarm", Bondi said. The centre-left opposition was not impressed by the minister's report and the two main groups, the Democratic Party and Italy of Values (IdV), announced a no-confidence motion aimed at bringing him down.

"Bondi has done more damage than Vesuvius," the IdV claimed.

COLLAPSE SPURRED FRESH FEARS, POLEMICS.

The collapse of the school earned headlines worldwide and rekindled claims the 2,000-year-old site is not being properly protected.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano called the incident a "disgrace" for Italy.

Institutions and art experts worldwide said the conservation of the UNESCO World Heritage site was not being adequately funded.

British author Robert Harris, author of the 2003 global bestseller 'Pompeii', published a plea in Rome daily La Repubblica asking for more to be done.

Harris said he was "not surprised" at the collapse and argued that the right of visitors to see the site's wonders should be balanced with conservation needs.

"We are faced with a paradox: the more people visit Pompeii, the more Pompeii is destroyed".

In his report, Bondi said that water infiltration from heavy rains dealt a killer blow to the school, which was precarious because a 1950 restoration "wrongly" put reinforced concrete on the roof, making it "inevitable" that it would buckle under the weight.

The minister reaffirmed his confidence that famous frescoes giving insights into gladiators' lives may have survived the crash.

Polemics about looting, stray dogs and structural decay have dogged Pompeii in recent years and the government appointed a special commissioner who has been credited with solving some of these problems since 2008.

Every year over two million people visit Pompeii, which was smothered in lava and ash by the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

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