Source AP ©

Heavy rains destroy Rome's ancient wall

A 6-meter (20-foot) section of Rome's ancient Aurelian wall collapsed into a pile of bricks because of heavy rains, no victims were reported. Italy’s officials are drawing up restoration plans.

The wall, near Rome's central train station, collapsed Thursday evening after water infiltrated the section, which was not part of the original Roman defenses but of a 16th century restoration ordered by the popes, said Paola Virgili, an official in charge of the wall's restoration.

The Aurelian wall - named after the 3rd century emperor who built it to defend the city against the first barbarian onslaughts - surrounds Rome with more than 17 kilometers (11 miles) of fortifications, towers and gates.

Experts had previously determined that the entire wall section in the area, a 350-meter (1,100-foot) stretch in the north of the Italian capital, was in danger of collapsing and planned to start restoring it Monday.

"It came down before we could even cordon it off," Virgili said. "The problem is that these walls have a certain age and they are vulnerable to water infiltration."

Virgili said workers would put up emergency buttresses to shore up the collapsed section, while restoration on the entire endangered stretch would begin in a few months. It was not yet clear how much the works would cost, but Virgili said her budget stood at EUR2 million (US$2.88 million).

Thursday's collapse was not the first to hit the Aurelian wall.

In 2001, a 30-meter (100-foot) stretch in the south of Rome collapsed and it took years and millions of euros to restore it. The city regularly allocates money for the monument, but the amounts are usually only enough to renovate the most fragile sections.

Virgili said a full restoration of the entire wall would cost at least EUR100 million (US$144 million).