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Friday, December 11, 1998 Published at 13:33 GMT

World: Europe

Bid to save Leaning Tower of Pisa

The tower began to lean immediately after construction

Attempts to implement a new plan to safeguard one of the world's most famous landmarks - the Leaning Tower of Pisa - have been delayed by bad weather.

Heavy rain prevented engineers from beginning the operation to attach steel "suspenders" to the tower.

The engineer overseeing the work, Paolo Heiniger, said the two sets of 50-millimeter thick cables had been moved to the base of the 12th-century tower.

Orla Guerin in Rome: "This time the experts are taking no chances."
The project, to reduce the inclination of the tower by half a degree, has run into a series of obstacles, delaying its start for months.

The last bid to save the tower, in 1995, actually made things worse - it lurched forward suddenly during excavations around its base.

This time the experts are taking no chances. They have designed a kind of safety belt for the 800-year-old landmark.

The BBC's Orla Guerin reports on the latest plans to save the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Four steel cables will be attached to it to ensure it does not topple.

Once they are in place, soil will be siphoned out from under its raised north side.

This will cause the tower to slip back slightly, into a more upright position - or that at least is the theory.

Finally, the concrete ring around its base will be widened, with 10 steel cables anchoring the tower to the ground.

Worries over plan

[ image: The tower's tilt guarantees its appeal with tourists]
The tower's tilt guarantees its appeal with tourists
The plan is controversial and not without risks. Critics claim it could destabilise the fragile structure even further.

But the international experts behind the project insist that the tower will not survive without it. They say it could collapse completely within 20 years.

There is no question of trying to straighten the tower altogether - the tilt is what guarantees its appeal. This plan aims merely at a correction of half a degree.

Trying to achieve even this much will take years but if it works the experts say it will safeguard the tower for centuries to come.

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