Wall collapse at Pompeii: Italian archaeologists call emergency meeting, seek answers

Italy’s top cultural official scheduled an emergency for Tuesday morning after heavy rains led to the collapse of a section of wall in ancient Pompeii, the famous city buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

The damage is in an area long closed to the public, at the edge of the excavations of the ancient Roman city. Officials said inadequate drainage in the unexcavated part is particularly worrisome. Rains lashing the Naples area recently were also blamed for damage discovered Sunday in other parts of Pompeii, the Associated Press reported.

Dario Franceschini, the minister of goods and cultural activities and tourism, said the meeting would seek to verify the effectiveness of extra maintenance efforts at the site and evaluate the overall status of preservation work at Pompeii . The site has for years struggled to balance restoration work with access for tourists, explained Lisa Ackerman, executive vice president of the World Monuments Fund.


“Pompeii has had problems for years and years and years,” Ackerman told FoxNews.com. “The pressure to keep it open as a tourist venue puts a lot of pressure on the monument.”

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While the Italian government has done a reasonable job maintaining the site, it has been challenged to keep the fragile and remarkable facility open. A similar wall collapse occurred in 2012, for example, leading some local politicians demanding action even then.

"How many walls have to fall, how much rain or snow should we expect to see a turnaround in state finance for the protection of cultural assets," said Giulia Rodano, cultural affairs spokesman for the center-left Italy of Values party, according to a report in the Telegraph.

Last year, the Italian government appointed a special official to ensure that European Union and Italian funds were properly spent to repair and protect Pompeii. Yet officials clearly still struggle with the crumbling facility.

“I was as shocked as anybody that another collapse happened,” Ackerman said.

A spokesman for Franceschini’s office did not immediately reply to FoxNews.com requests for an update on the site.

The World Monuments Fund is dedicated to preserving important architectural and cultural heritage sites around the world, and through it, Ackerman has spent a lot of time at Pompeii over the years. She said there has been no lack of people on the site.

“But a lot are guards, not conservators. And during high tourist season they’re not going to take major areas off line, so maintenance gets deferred.” Yet the hand-wringing of politicians rarely leads to repairs -- merely more finger-pointing.

“It’s such a tragedy. It makes people focus on all the wrong issues. We waste time blaming people rather than doing the work.”