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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 May 2007, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
Italian city faces rubbish crisis
Piles of burning rubbish in Naples street
There are concerns that the fires will release dangerous toxins
Residents of the Italian city of Naples have been torching piles of rotting rubbish in the steets amid a worsening refuse crisis.

Most of the area's landfill sites are full, meaning that rubbish collectors have not been doing their rounds.

The streets are stinking, piled with thousands of tonnes of rotting rubbish in sweltering temperatures.

President Giorgio Napolitano, who is from Naples, has pledged to help end the crisis.

The southern city of one million people is experiencing an early heatwave that has already seen temperatures touch 30C.

"The stench is truly unbearable. Look at all these dogs running about. We'll all die at this rate," local student Michela Giordano told Reuters news agency.

'Threat of toxins'

Frustrated residents have taken to torching heaps of rubbish - by one count, there were 130 such fires on Tuesday night alone, reports the BBC's Mark Duff in Milan.

But the lighting of fires has led to concerns that dangerous toxins released into the air could enter the human food chain and cause an environmental catastrophe.

There are also fears that the tourist trade could be hit by the mountains of rubbish piling up in front of hotels and restaurants.

Resident pushes stroller past pile of rubbish in Naples
The mountains of rubbish could also affect the tourist trade
Health officials are warning that the rubbish could cause an outbreak of infectious diseases. Already, some schools have been forced to shut because they have been invaded by mice.

Naples' problem is that it has almost nowhere to dump its rubbish. The only landfill site still available is expected to be full by the end of the week, officials said.

The government in Rome has identified a number of potential dumps around the city - but local people have protested against attempts to start work on them.

Guido Bertolaso, the man responsible for building the city's new landfill sites, has threatened to resign several times because proposed sites have been overturned by local or national politicians.

History provides a footnote to underline the seriousness of the crisis facing Naples, our correspondent says. In 1973 it was the last major European city to suffer a cholera epidemic.

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