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New Pompeii superintendent asks for extension of EU funding

Freeze on maintenance-worker hirings must be ended, Osanna says

05 March, 16:46
New Pompeii superintendent asks for extension of EU funding (see previous).

(ANSA) - Pompeii, March 5 - Italy's newly appointed superintendent for the endangered ancient city of Pompeii on Wednesday asked for an extension to this year's deadline for spending 105 million euros of EU money to shore up the famed site.

"It's going to be hard to spend the EU's 105 million, we need an extension," said Massimo Osanna shortly after being installed.

"So far only 40 million have been allocated, and we'll need an extension to try to spend it all by the end of 2015, "Even then it's going to be tough", he said.

Osanna also warned of a shortage of workers essential to maintenance such as builders, carpenters and scaffolding riggers. "Many of these have retired over the years and not been replaced," Osanna said, calling for 80 new hirings.

He said "architects and archaeologists have been hired to face the immediate emergency" after the three walls collapsed, the latest incidents in a long string of well-publicised structural cave-ins at Pompeii.

"But the work force lacks the vital lymph of younger workers," Osanna said. He said that because of a long hiring freeze and red tape, the average worker at the 2,000-year-old site was aged between 45 and 60.

"Unless the workforce is renewed, the problems won't be solved".

On Monday UNESCO said "the whole place may collapse unless extraordinary measures are taken".

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini on Tuesday allocated two million euros for emergency repairs.

There was however optimism that the so-called Great Pompei Project' would be completed on time next year.

"We can do it," Osanna said.

UNESCO in July gave Italy until December 31 to apply a series of upgrade measures or face having Pompeii removed from the prestigious list of World Heritage sites.

The measures includes video surveillance of 50% of the area and a buffer zone around the site.

Heavy rain was blamed for a wall of a Roman-era shop collapsing in Pompeii on Monday, a day after two other precious parts of the ancient city - a wall at the Temple of Venus and another wall on a tomb in the famed necropolis of Porta Nocera - suffered serious damage from bad weather.

These followed a long and worrying catalogue of bits of Pompeii falling off.

In November 2010 the House of the Gladiators came down, prompting Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to say: "This is a disgrace for the whole of Italy". In February 2012 a piece of plaster came off the the Temple of Jupiter, one of Pompeii's main attractions.

Then, in September 2012, at the Villa of the Mysteries, an even more iconic building, a five-metre-long flying buttress gave in and went crashing to the ground.

Last November, finally, a wall in one of the ancient city's main thoroughfares, Via dell'Abbondanza, keeled over while another piece of decorative plaster, at the House of the Little Fountain, dropped from the ceiling. In December Italy named the former head of its prestigious art-theft unit to head up the ambitious Great Pompeii project.

Giovanni Nistri, a general in the paramilitary Carabinieri police who led Italy's cultural asset-protection division from 2007 to 2010, had "the right sensitivity for this job", then culture minister Massimo Bray said.

Pompeii has been plagued for decades by accusations of mismanagement, neglect and even infiltration by the local Camorra mafia.