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Tear gas fired at stand-off in trash-strewn Naples

NAPLES (Reuters) - Riot police fired teargas to disperse protesters trying to stop truckloads of garbage being brought into their Naples suburb for dumping on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi has taken control of the emergency after 110,000 tonnes of garbage built up on the streets of Naples. Refuse collection stopped around Christmas when almost all the southern city’s dumps were declared full.

The government wants to send some of the stinking waste to the suburb of Pianura but protesters have used metal fences, concrete blocks and trees to block the road. Pianura’s dumps closed 11 years ago.

During a night of sporadic clashes with riot police, teargas was used to disperse protesters who set fire to a bus.

On Tuesday morning, the stench of rotting food and smoke from burning trash hung in the air as a police helicopter hovered overhead.

Prodi is expected to announce emergency measures, including an expanded role for the army in clean-up operations, after a meeting with cabinet ministers later on Tuesday.

“Only the army has the men and the means to take on this emergency,” Prodi was quoted as saying in La Repubblica daily.

The Camorra -- the Naples version of Sicily’s Mafia -- is heavily involved in the transport and disposal of waste.

Along with political ineffectiveness and corruption, that has meant Naples has failed to get to grips with the problem that was first recognised as an emergency 14 years ago.

Environment Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, the head of the Green Party and a natural ally of the protesters, has said the people of Pianura will have to accept their waste dumps must reopen, at least temporarily.

The site is overgrown with grass and scrubby vegetation. Locals say it is the source of ground and air pollution and feel betrayed by politicians who promised to clean up the site and even create a golf course there.


“I see the big country houses don’t have a single rubbish bag outside them while we have to live in this total shit,” said Angelo Lanzano, a 56-year-old resident.

While daytime protests have been peaceful and have included local women and children, the atmosphere at night has turned ugly and several TV reporters have been attacked by youths.

Illegal waste dumping and burning is blamed for poisoning the soil, water and air of large zones around the base of Mount Vesuvius. An incinerator which was supposed to open at the end of 2007 is not ready.

Soldiers cleared some of the festering piles of waste from around Naples schools on Monday and the army is likely to be called on to help clear up the rest of the city and its hinterland.

The government is working to identify dumps or waste storage sites around the country.

Additional reporting Laura Viggiano; editing by Robert Woodward