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Page last updated at 17:20 GMT, Monday, 19 May 2008 18:20 UK

Neapolitans torch rubbish piles

Italian firefighters try to extinguish burning, uncollected rubbish in a street in the centre of Naples
People in Naples have taken to burning rubbish to clear their streets

Firefighters battled overnight in the southern Italian city of Naples to extinguish dozens of blazes as angry residents set rubbish piles alight.

The city has some 3,500 tonnes of uncollected rubbish, piled up around its streets.

Italy's prime minister is due to hold a cabinet meeting in the city on Wednesday to address the crisis.

Silvio Berlusconi has hinted he may force local councils to accept new rubbish dumps, despite opposition.

"I am no longer prepared to wait until everyone is in agreement, while the piles of rubbish become mountains of trash," Mr Berlusconi is quoted as saying in Italy's La Repubblica newspaper.

The overnight blazes are the latest development in an ongoing dispute over waste disposal in Naples.

Locals blame chronic mismanagement by the city authorities and the involvement of the Naples mafia, the Camorra, for the crisis.

Health fears

The European Union announced on 6 May that it was taking Italy to the European Court of Justice over its mishandling and management of waste in the Campania region.

A spokeswoman for Environment Commissioner, Stavros Dimas, said the Commission expected the Italian authorities to "act quickly".

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Piles of rubbish on fire

"Obviously things need to be done and Italy should not wait until the court has resolved the issue to take action," Barbara Helfferich told the BBC news website.

She said it was partly fears over human and environmental health that had prompted the decision to take the case against Italy further.

Mr Berlusconi is expected to announce ten new sites where rubbish can be processed and broken down.

He may also turn to the army to help clear the remaining rubbish, La Repubblica reports.

But new rubbish dumps are not popular. Last week, residents of towns in the region took to the streets in Naples to protest against planned sites and processing plants.

There are an estimated 45,000 tonnes of rubbish on the streets in the wider Campania region.

Mafia link

A Naples city councillor said local authorities were managing to remove more than 1,000 tonnes of rubbish a day.

Italian firefighters try to extinguish burning, uncollected rubbish in a street in the centre of Naples
People must collaborate. They have to stop throwing bags of rubbish out on to the streets, and, above all, they mustn't burn them
Naples councillor Gennaro Mola

He appealed to residents to be patient and not to take matters into their own hands by setting rubbish alight.

"Thanks to the additional collections, we should be able to overcome this emergency in four or five days, but people must collaborate," Gennaro Mola is quoted as telling La Corriere newspaper.

"They have to stop throwing bags of rubbish out on to the streets, and, above all, they mustn't burn them."

Health officials on Sunday expressed concern about the potential for the rotting rubbish to host vermin and insects.

The president of the Naples Doctors' Association, Giuseppe Scalera, said that the highest risk to human health was from dioxins that could be released when rubbish was burnt.




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