Damage in Pompeii jeopardizes EU support

Police patrol via dell'Abbondanza

Naples -District Attorney in the province of Naples, Alessandro Pennasilico has opened a case file on the incidents that have led the archaeological site of Pompeii to become the centre of union disputes, harsh rebukes from the site Superintendent Massimo Osanna and the collapse of a wall in Regio I along the popular via dell’Abbondanza.


Near to closing time at the famous Roman city ruins earlier this week, military police arrived and taped off the central area of via dell’Abbondanza near the Foro sequestering the area after the collapse of a wall that took place last Friday.


Necessary for the ongoing investigation, the act will now cause even further delays in the restoration of Regio I that had just recently received the green light from the Naples administrative courts.


Although no particular theories have been attributed to the cause of the collapsed metre and a half wall, the DA does not exclude any possibilities at this time: investigators could be looking at natural causes, or intentional vandalism.


While police are hard at work, the DA’s office has expressed deep concern about eventual repercussions that the damage could do to the site’s image in the eyes of the European union, jeopardising their consideration and the much counted on financing for Pompeii’s Grande Progetto Pompeii. The indispensable project established for the restoration and expensive overall upkeep of the UNESCO world heritage site was Pompeii’s long fought triumph in efforts to best guarantee the preservation of the antique treasures.


Even though Superintendent Osanna places no suspicions on foul play, he does assert: “It has not rained for a long time and there have been no natural disasters as such to justify the collapse,” explains the director in an interview. “I’m certain that the collapse occurred during the night between the 26th and the 27th of January. The management staff involved in security on via dell’Abbondanza walked by number 22 and the structure was in tact,” he emphasizes referring to the uncanny timing of the incident.


Police have equally spoken to him concerning ‘threats’ the site manager claims to have received from some small unions for having opened the site gates during a union meeting last Thursday.


In the meantime, pleasant words of support have filled former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s blog post. “I stand by Osanna’s side, he writes in solidarity. “In Pompeii, Italy is toying with its future, not with its past. Appreciating Pompeii means not throwing away European funds as has happened in the past, of course. It even means remembering who we Italians are and urging the South to get in the game,” he concludes.


Instead of dying down, the internal disputes have taken on even more steam in the last hours. Given the Pompeii visit planned February 9th by Minister of Heritage, Culture and Tourism, Dario Franceschini andMinister of Territorial Cohesion and the South, Claudio De Vincenti, together with European Commissioner Corina Cretu, custodians first called for an assembly and requested that the site stay closed in respect of the union debate. After receiving an emphatic no, Osanna made it clear that the site was a public utility and that he personally would assume responsibility for the security of the site and even if it meant personally opening the gates himself. Although the 70-member union later cancelled the assembly, custodians have nonetheless announced that those not scheduled to work would march in protest with slogans and picket signs.


Word has now come from the police headquarters that no demonstration will be authorised one week from today given the possible danger to public order.


With all the commotion and unreliability for the site open hours, tour operators have been registering growing numbers of cancellations for tourist visits to Pompeii, a source says. Knowing they risk finding the Roman ruins closed, some have preferred either to postpone their trip to a later date or cancel altogether.


The DA’s office has promised to conclude their investigation within the next 30 days.