Pompeii in 'state of emergency'

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The Italian government declared a state of emergency at the Pompeii archaeological site on Friday to try to rescue one of the world's most important cultural treasures from decades of neglect.

A cabinet statement said it would appoint a special commissioner for Pompeii, the ancient Roman city buried by an eruption of the Vesuvius volcano in AD 79 and now a Unesco World Heritage site.

A report in daily Corriere della Sera this week said most of the 1 500 houses at the site are closed to the public, its frescoes have faded to become almost invisible and restoration work that began in 1978 has yet to be completed.

The "state of emergency", which the government said would last for a year, allows for extra funds and special measures to be taken to protect the site.

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