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Sunday, May 23, 1999 Published at 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK

World: Europe

Tower of Pisa leans less

Straightening up - that famous tower

By David Willey

Excavations under Italy's famous Leaning Tower of Pisa have succeeded in partly correcting its rate of incline.

Engineers responsible for this latest attempt to stop the 700 year-old tower from leaning ever further and risking collapse, are jubilant.

Professor Michele Jamiolkowski, the head of the international committee of experts in charge of the works, said that in a single week, the tower had moved five millimetres back towards the perpendicular, and it is now leaning at the same angle as it did 25 years ago.

This century, the tower has been increasing its rate of tilt at an alarming rate and it has been closed to the public for the past nine years.

Moving the earth

Experiments are taking place to see what happens when earth is moved from under the foundations of the ancient cylindrical building.

It has been slowly shifting since shortly after construction began in the 12th century.

A steel corset has been placed around it and the tower has been anchored to the ground with steel cables to prevent it collapsing while engineering work continues.

Meanwhile, authorities in Pisa have asked the government for more cash to finish straightening the tower. They estimate another $4m will be needed.

The Leaning Tower's ornate and unique exterior balconies were built to enable local dignitaries to be seen by the populous during religious processions in the Middle Ages.

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