Page last updated at 18:26 GMT, Friday, 4 July 2008 19:26 UK

Italy declares Pompeii emergency

Statues at Pompeii, file image
The ruins are among Italy's most-visited tourist attractions

The ancient city of Pompeii has fallen into such disrepair that the Italian government has declared a "state of emergency" in a bid to save the ruins.

Ministers intend to appoint a special commissioner to oversee the site, and have earmarked extra funding for it.

According to analysts, the ruins have suffered from lack of investment, mismanagement, litter and looting.

Pompeii was buried by a volcanic eruption in AD79 and was not rediscovered until the 18th Century.

The volcanic debris preserved many of the city's buildings, frescos, silverware, mosaics and other artefacts.

But experts complain that the relics are now in danger.

"Every year at least 150 sq m (1,600 sq ft) of fresco and plasterwork are lost for lack of maintenance," Antonio Irlando, a regional councillor responsible for artistic heritage, told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

"The same goes for stones: at least 3,000 pieces every year end up disintegrating," he said.


A look around the ancient city of Pompeii

The ruins are one of Italy's biggest tourist attractions, and the newly-elected government has decided to act.

"To call the situation intolerable doesn't go far enough," Reuters quoted Culture Minister Sandro Bondi as saying.

The "state of emergency" will last for a year.

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