House of the Gladiators collapses in Pompeii

Pompeii is popular with tourists but has suffered from a lack of investment

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A house in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii has collapsed, raising concerns about Italy's state support for its archaeological heritage.

The House of the Gladiators was found in ruins when curators came to open the site to visitors early on Saturday.

Partially rebuilt after it sustained damage during World War II, it had not been thought at risk of collapse.

Culture Minister Sandro Bondi said some of the frescos on the house's lower walls might have survived.

He said that the collapse showed the need for "adequate resources" to preserve Italy's "immense historic artistic heritage".

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said it was "a shame for Italy".

Antonio Varone, director of excavations at the site, said officials were "trying to preserve the last fragments" of the building.

Heavy rains

The house, which is not normally open to the public but can be viewed from the outside, was cordoned off after the collapse.

There was speculation that recent heavy rains might have made the structure unstable.

The house, known as the Schola Armaturarum, was used by gladiators for training before fights in the nearby amphitheatre.

Pompeii was destroyed in AD79 when a volcanic eruption from nearby Mount Vesuvius buried the city in ash. It was not uncovered until the 18th Century.

Tsao Cevoli, president of Italy's National Association of Archaeologists, called the collapse "an irreparable wound to the world's most important archaeological site".

Extra funds were made available two years ago, and special measures put in place, to improve conservation at Pompeii, but critics say the plan was badly managed.

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