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05/03/2014 14:46 1649
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When famous Italian designer Rocco Barocco visited the UNESCO world heritage site of Pompeii in southern Italy to shoot advertising images of his collection presented at the Milan Fashion Week days ago, he found "strong decay."

The new Roccobarocco creations were a tribute to the timeless beauty of the Roman ruins near Naples, but also a "pain" for the Naples-born designer who saw crowds of visitors complaining that "many areas of the site were closed and everywhere there were destroyed and crumbling parts."

"I suffered as I saw so much degradation in an amazing place that has come to us from so far. We Italians should preserve our culture, which is known and appreciated in the entire world," he said.

Days after the Milan Fashion Week ended, three more collapses during the weekend at the Roman city that was buried under ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. sadly confirmed Barocco's concern. These were only the latest in a long series of collapses at the ancient site.

The European Commission on Tuesday urged Italy to take more care of Pompeii, which is an archaeological treasure "not only for Italy but also for the world." The remarks came after UNESCO warned Italy that Pompeii was "destined to collapse entirely" unless urgent measures are taken.

Bad weather was blamed for a wall of a Roman-era shop falling off on Sunday night, hours after two other parts of Pompeii suffered big damage from heavy rainfall. Archaeologists and experts, however, said that government mismanagement and cultural blindness were behind the huge, absurd continuous loss.

"After years of work, a project to save Pompeii - known as the Great Project of Pompeii - had been launched in 2011," Andrea Carandini, a renowned archeologist for his excavations and discoveries in Rome and president of the Italian National Trust (FAI), told Xinhua on Tuesday.

The project, based on knowledge and maintenance of the 2,000-year-old city, obtained an injection of 105 million euros (144 million U.S. dollars) in European Union funds. "But three years later, I realize now that the project has been turned upside-down in a large part," Carandini said.

"The project was aimed at a planned maintenance to prevent disasters, but it slowly drifted into individual restorations and safety measures," the archaeologist went on to say. "What changes if 20 or 40 in some 1,500 buildings are restored? Maintenance is a non-expensive, cyclic care made of several small interventions, but it is not liked in Italy," he noted.

"You do not wait that your house falls down to restore it, but you intervene to fix every small problem so that you avoid a disaster," Carandini noted. "But this was not done neither in Pompei nor in other heritage sites of Italy. For various reasons, it was easier to drift into old and easier practices, likely more profitable, instead of enacting cutting-edge maintenance," he said.

"This lack of wisdom makes me despair. We will see whether the newly appointed culture minister (Dario Franceschini, part of the government led by Matteo Renzi which was sworn in on Feb. 22) will return to the original project," Carandini concluded.

Following a meeting called on Tuesday to discuss the situation, Franceschini ordered immediate use of 2 million euros (2.7 million U.S. dollars) for maintenance at the Pompeii site. He also speeded procedures to start "urgent interventions" to restore the damaged buildings and shore up parts of the site at risk of collapse.

In a statement, Franceschini pledged to do his best for Pompeii. "It is clear that the eyes of the international community are focused on what we will manage to do in Pompeii," he said assuring the EU that his government was taking care of the archaeological site and will produce concrete results.

By Marzia De Giuli

shanghaidaily.com

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