More walls collapse at Italy's ancient city of Pompeii

Three walls have collapsed at the tourist spot in a month

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Two walls have collapsed in Italy's ancient city of Pompeii, the second such incident this week and the third in a month.

Officials have blamed the collapse on heavy rain.

The Italian opposition accuses the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of letting the 2,000-year-old site fall into neglect.

The incident follows the crumbling of a wall on Tuesday and the collapse of the House of Gladiators three weeks ago.

The two walls gave way in separate parts of the historic site on Wednesday morning, Pompeii's archaeological superintendent said.

Officials said neither the collapsed wall along one of the site's main streets, the Via Stabiana, nor the fallen wall in the House of the small Lupanar were of artistic value.

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 and is on the UN's list of protected World Heritage sites.

Long-term problem

The Italian government has been widely condemned for not spending more to protect the country's heritage, and there have been calls for the resignation of Culture Minister Sandro Bondi because of the embarrassment caused by the various collapses.

Mr Bondi has so far refused to step down.

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

Last month staff at cultural sites across Italy went on strike to protest at government plans to cut funding to the arts.

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy in Rome says the government is trying to encourage benefactors from the private sector to step in to help preserve ancient buildings and artefacts.

Although this has become a divisive political issue in recent months, the under-investment in the conservation of Italy's many historical sites has been a problem for a long time, our correspondent says.

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