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Last Updated: Monday, 7 January 2008, 12:39 GMT
Soldiers bulldoze Naples rubbish
By Christian Fraser
BBC News, Rome

Italian army clearing rubbish in Caserta, on edge of Naples
The army is pushing the rubbish away from schools
The Italian army has begun bulldozing the 100,000 tonnes of rubbish that has piled up in the streets of the southern city of Naples.

The government is to hold an emergency meeting to find a solution to the rubbish crisis. Naples dustmen stopped collecting rubbish two weeks ago.

With nowhere to put it local people are forced to burn it. The fire brigade has been struggling to put out the fires.

Protesters have clashed with police near an overflowing landfill site.

Police tried to reopen the site, but residents of Pianura, a western suburb, said it was a health risk and blocked the roads. They threw stones at police, who responded with batons. At least three people were taken to hospital.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi has returned from his holidays to a national embarrassment. The EU is warning there will be tough penalties unless Italy resolves the crisis this week.

Schools which have been closed were reopened on the orders of the government, though only a handful of students have left their homes.

Finding a solution to this problem means tackling the mob.

The Camorra, the Neapolitan version of the Mafia, has turned this into a hugely profitable business.

They have sabotaged every effort to build hi-tech incinerators, so that Naples must rely on landfill sites, where they can hide the domestic and industrial waste, which they chuck in from all around the country.

Health concerns

Millions of tonnes of it have been dumped illegally in the sea or in the countryside, untreated and highly toxic.

Doctors say cancer rates in Naples are much higher than the national average.

Over the weekend angry Neapolitans clashed with police.

In one of the more worrying developments, police found effigies of the mayor and the regional governor hanging from lampposts with death threats pinned to their chests.

Rubbish collection is a perennial problem which has plagued Naples and its politicians for some 15 years.

The government is conscious it is under severe pressure to find a solution - but this means tackling the mob.

The EU says it is watching closely and is considering legal action for Italy's breach of European waste disposal directives.

In 15 years of promises, the Italian state has spent some 2bn euros (1.5bn) trying, and failing, to clean up the waste.

Clashes in Naples as the police intervene


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