The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 11, 2007; 4:56 AM
ROME -- The U.S. Embassy in Rome is warning Americans traveling to Naples and its surrounding region they may face health risks from a garbage crisis that has left rubbish piling up in the streets.
"U.S. citizens traveling to or through the area may encounter mounds of garbage, open fires with potentially toxic fumes, and/or sporadic public demonstrations by local residents attempting to block access to dumps," said the message posted this week on the embassy's Web site.
At the height of the crisis, in May, collectors stopped gathering garbage because there was nowhere to take it and residents set fire to hundreds of piles of rotting rubbish, releasing potentially toxic smoke.
Communities around Naples resisted attempts to create new dumps or temporary storage sites by blocking train tracks and staging protests.
The situation has since eased as authorities opened new dumping sites, but the southern Campania region _ home to the luxurious Amalfi Coast but also the slums of Naples _ has been plagued by successive garbage crises in recent years.
The embassy message noted that authorities do a good job of collecting garbage in tourist areas like downtown Naples and Pompeii, but also warned that the fumes from the fires could aggravate respiratory problems.
The warning set off protests Tuesday by officials in Naples, who said the streets and towns of Campania had already been cleaned up and that no increased health risks had been detected.
"Any kind of alarmism is baseless and founded only on emotions, amplified by the international media," Naples Mayor Rosa Russo Iervolino said in a statement, adding that she had protested to the embassy about the warning and asked for it to be withdrawn.