Italy fears for Colos­seum as ‘cracks get big­ger’ af­ter each earth­quake

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE -

The worst earth­quake to hit Italy in three decades has added trou­bling cracks to the Colos­seum, threat­en­ing the coun­try’s most pop­u­lar his­toric land­mark.

Francesco Pros­peretti, the spe­cial su­per­in­ten­dent for the Colos­seum and the Ro­man Fo­rum, said that each earth­quake put ever more dan­ger­ous strain on the 2,000-year-old arena.

“With each earth­quake the cracks are in­creas­ing,” Mr Pros­peretti told Cor­riere della Sera.

The 6.5 mag­ni­tude earth­quake that shook cen­tral Italy at 7.40am on Sun­day left more than 25,000 peo­ple home­less and caused wide­spread de­struc­tion in around 100 towns in cen­tral Italy. It was the lat­est in a string of earth­quakes to hit the coun­try since 24 Au­gust, when nearly 300 peo­ple died in a 6.2 mag­ni­tude quake.

Drone footage shows dev­as­tat­ing af­ter­math of Italy

Cul­tural of­fi­cials are still count­ing the cost of the de­struc­tion to around 5,000 churches, bell tow­ers, his­toric build­ings and an­cient walls brought down by the re­cent earth­quakes .

The lat­est quake also dam­aged sev­eral churches and build­ings in the heart of Rome. St Paul’s Out­side the Walls, a his­toric basil­ica and pop­u­lar Chris­tian pil­grim­age site, was closed to the pub­lic on Sun­day af­ter cracks ap­peared in its façade and cor­nices fell from the ceil­ing.

Schools were also closed in Rome on Mon­day as Mayor Vir­ginia Raggi or­dered se­cu­rity checks amid re­ports that one in five schools build­ings may have been dam­aged.

Mr Pros­peretti said a thor­ough in­spec­tion had been con­ducted at the Colos­seum im­me­di­ately af­ter Sun­day’s earth­quake.

He said while some ma­te­rial had fallen on the top level of the an­cient am­phithe­atre, that dam­age had been caused well be­fore the earth­quake and that par­tic­u­lar area over­look­ing the Pala­tine Hill was al­ready closed to the pub­lic.

Ex­perts scoured his­toric sites in­clud­ing the Ro­man Fo­rum, the Baths of Cara­calla and the Pan­theon as well as the Colos­seum

which was de­clared safe and opened to tourists on Sun­day. Alessan­dro D’Alessio, an arche­ol­o­gist who works with the su­per­in­ten­dent’s of­fice, said the an­cient Ro­mans were well aware of the im­pact of earth­quakes and in­cor­po­rated that in their con­struc­tion.

“The (Colos­seum) arches are the best struc­tures to ab­sorb move­ments and vi­bra­tions,” he told Cor­riere Della Sera. “The an­cient Ro­mans knew the earth­quakes of the Ap­penines well. “

“Cicero and Tac­i­tus (Ro­man writ­ers) also wrote that the tremors made swords and shields vi­brate. But the most feared quakes were those that came from the Castelli re­gion (out­side Rome).”

The Colos­seum, built in 80 AD, is the largest Ro­man am­phithe­atre in the world and was once cov­ered in blood dur­ing bit­ter glad­i­a­to­rial con­tests that cap­ti­vated an­cient Rome. These days it at­tracts more than five mil­lion visi­tors a year.

But the an­cient arena has been shaken by earth­quakes sev­eral times over the cen­turies and suf­fered se­vere dam­ages in the 1349 earth­quake which brought down the south side of the am­phithe­atre.

It was also dam­aged by an­other earth­quake in 1703 even though the epi­cen­tre of the quake was in the neigh­bour­ing re­gion of Abruzzo.

Sies­mol­o­gist An­to­nio Pier­santi from Italy’s Na­tional In­sti­tute of Geo­physics and vol­canol­ogy sought to play down any sug­ges­tion that Italy’s earth­quakes were get­ting worse af­ter the re­cent tremors.

“There is no ev­i­dence at this time to show we are in a sit­u­a­tion any dif­fer­ent to the past few years, “he told ANSA. “There are no signs of any type.”

Nev­er­the­less the third pow­er­ful earth­quake to hit Italy in two months struck at the heart of Italy’s cul­tural iden­tity, de­stroy­ing a Bene­dic­tine cathe­dral, a me­dieval tower and other beloved land­marks that had sur­vived the ear­lier jolts across a moun­tain­ous re­gion of small his­toric towns.

To­maso Mon­ta­nari, an art his­to­rian and lead­ing critic, said the cul­tural cost of the quakes was im­mense and more should have been done to pro­tect build­ings and churches.

“The loss of our roots means we have lost the fu­ture,” Pro­fes­sor Mon­ta­nari said. “In Italy the stones, the build­ings, the churches and the art­works are the back­bone of the coun­try.”

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