Garbage Riots Police Battle Protesters Over a Dump in Naples

Italy's failure to solve a longstanding crisis with piles of garbage in Naples led to violence on Monday night and Tuesday morning. Prime Minister Prodi's government has promised a "radical" solution, but locals have heard that before.

An embarrassing crisis over uncollected garbage in Naples failed to end peacefully on Monday when police clashed with angry protesters who were blocking access to an old suburban dump.

A bulldozer trying to remove a roadblock, escorted by police, fell under a hail of rocks and metal bolts thrown by local residents, according to Italy's ANSA news agency. Police retreated but returned on Tuesday morning, when protesters fought them again. Reuters reported some protesters injured and hauled away in ambulances.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi's government, meanwhile, was in emergency sessions on Monday to break the mafia-related impasse, and a spokesman promised a "radical" solution within 24 hours.

Trash collection stopped entirely on Dec. 21, when dumps around Naples were declared full. To ease the crisis, authorities decided to re-open a dump near the suburb of Pianura, but locals infuriated by conditions there reportedly used metal fences, overturned dumpsters and piles of garbage to build roadblocks. Meanwhile, tons of garbage began piling up in the streets of Naples and in other towns in the region.

Italian soldiers on Monday were called in to clear some piles of garbage from schools around Naples, and Environment Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, head of the Green Party, said the army could be useful in more cleanup efforts.

'State of Emergency'

Last week the crisis became a national story when residents set fire to the piles of garbage festering in Naples' streets. "There is serious concern that with all this rubbish being burned," a resident named Pierre Royson told BBC News, "all kinds of toxins could be going up in flames, potentially posing a health risk.

"Then there is the smell," Royson said. "A foul odor permeates our whole house because of the burning waste."

Trash collection has been a problem in Naples for years. A "waste disposal state of emergency" was first declared in 1994, and the piles of trash were threatening public health last summer. A massive incinerator was meant to open at the end of 2007, but it's not yet ready. Critics blame corruption, political foot-dragging and a mafia-run system of illegal industrial dumps for the ongoing trouble.


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