Saturday, December 12, 1998 Published at 22:48 GMT
Leaning Tower to straighten up
Pisa: 700 years at an angle
A rescue bid for one of the world's most famous landmarks - Italy's Leaning Tower of Pisa - has begun after delays due to bad weather.
In a complex eight-month engineering project, four steel "suspenders" will be attached to the tower to stop it toppling over.
And the plans involve removing soil from beneath the tower, coaxing it to slip into a fractionally more upright position.
But critics say the plan could destabilise the fragile structure even more. Such attitudes are also typical among the local population.
"Many people here see the tower as something miraculous and think it should be left alone," said Valeria Caldelli, a Pisa resident and journalist.
"They see it as having its own soul. They think that if you touch it, you offend it."
The four steel cables are there to ensure it does not topple. The impromptu safety belt was devised by experts after the last bid to save the tower, actually made things worse.
In 1995, the medieval monument suddenly lurched 2.5mm in one night - about 10% of the lean that the commission had corrected since 1990.
Pisa's tower developed its distinctive lean in the spongy Tuscan subsoil during the 12th century.
It now slouches five metres, and has sunk about three metres into the ground.