The ancient city of Pompeii was preserved in ash for millennia – but could it fall victim to climate change? Yet another wall in the ancient Roman city collapsed on Monday, the third piece of the UNESCO world heritage site to crumble since the weekend after days of heavy rain in southern Italy, authorities said.
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Unusual weather has been marked again and again this year. Today a powerful winter storm gripped the United States' east coast, bringing freezing rain, snow and arctic cold and suspending thousands of flights. Temperatures in Boston and New York plunged below zero. England has been experiencing its wettest winter in 250 years, with the southeast experiencing double its average precipitation.
Over in Italy, Pompeii is being lashed by rain – and is not doing well.
The city was preserved under ash from a volcanic eruption in 79 AD and was rediscovered in the 18th century. The new damage may increase pressure on the new culture minister Dario Franceschini, who called an emergency meeting on Tuesday after the wall of a tomb and part of an arch supporting a Temple of Venus crumbled over the weekend, due to heavy rainfall.
The latest wall to come down was part of a workshop on the corner of a street in the ancient city called Via Nola, which had been partly restored and reinforced with an iron bar.
It was at the boundary of the excavated part of the site, an area at particular risk because unexcavated ground becomes waterlogged and swollen after rainfall, pressuring the ancient masonry it rests against.
Securing those areas was one aim of the Great Pompeii Project, a 105 million euro restoration plan partly funded by the European Union and launched a year ago.
The project hit delays amid disagreement on who should be named to lead the works. It announced last month it had finished work on the first of five villas marked for restoration, the House of the Cryptoporticus, a villa with an underground passageway that was heavily damaged in World War Two bombing.