Column and wall crumble in fresh damage at Italy's ancient Pompeii

ROME Thu Jun 26, 2014 2:51pm EDT

ROME (Reuters) - Parts of a column and wall in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii collapsed on Thursday due to heavy rainfall, authorities said, in the latest of a string of incidents to damage the UNESCO world heritage site.

One of the country's most popular attractions, Pompeii was preserved under ash from a volcanic eruption in 79 AD and rediscovered in the 18th century. It has become a symbol for decades of mismanagement of Italy's cultural sites after a series of collapses that have sparked international outcry.

The authorities responsible for Pompeii's upkeep said the upper part of a column and part of a wall had given way in an ancient shop in a part of the 66-hectare (165-acre) site already closed to visitors.

The superintendent of Pompeii, Massimo Osanna, said the damage was "of a limited size, although any incident of this type at Pompeii cannot be underestimated".

The damage occurred in a part of the site due to be restructured under the Great Pompeii Project, a 105 million-euro ($145 million) restoration plan partly funded by the European Union and launched early last year.

Work is currently halted due to a legal case against the group that won the restoration contract.

Pompeii was home to about 13,000 people when the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, with a force equivalent to 40 atomic bombs, buried the town under ash, pumice, pebbles and dust.

(Reporting by Amalia De Simone; writing by Gavin Jones; editing by Andrew Roche)