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Rats and resignations plague Rome as rubbish crisis intensifies

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Rats and resignations plague Rome as rubbish crisis intensifies
Overflowing bins in Rome. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
17:07 CEST+02:00
Italian health authorities sounded the alarm on Tuesday over Rome's rubbish crisis, as rat control services worked overtime and the waste collection company board resigned.

The board of Ama, the rubbish collection company that in recent years has been dogged by inefficiency and corruption scandals, stepped down Monday over a dispute with the city council - just 100 days after it took over.

The previous board had been sacked in February by Rome mayor Virginia Raggi, who has come under intense public pressure over the long-standing problem with the Eternal City's overflowing bins, which regularly attract seagulls, rats, and even wild boar.

READ ALSO: 'The great rubbish dump': Why Romans are fed up with the state of their city

"The chaos in which Ama finds itself, with the umpteenth resignation of the umpteenth Board of Directors... worries Rome's Order of Doctors", the organisation's president and deputy, Antonio Magi and Pierluigi Bartoletti, wrote in an official note.

"Piles of rubbish in every street, near schools, hospitals, public places... risk creating a health emergency," they said.

Photo: Depositphotos

Anaci, the national association of condominium administrators, said on Monday it had received 12,000 requests for rodent exterminations between May and September - three times more than it usually does over the summer period.

Some city residents have resorted to taping their bins closed to keep rats out – and the stench in – saying there have been no collections in some areas for up to three months.

Rome's chief physician Antonio Magi had issued a "hygiene alert" in July, telling AFP there was a risk of disease spreading through the faeces of insects and animals banqueting on rotting waste.

'Big problems'

The capital now only has one waste processing plant, which is buckling under the strain.

"Within 15 days the city is going to have big problems," Ama's outgoing managing director Paolo Longoni said Wednesday.

Longoni and his fellow board members' departures marks the sixth time the board has changed in three years.

Raggi, a member of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, became the capital's first female mayor in 2016 by tapping into anger over corruption scandals - in particular the infiltration of crime families in the city's waste management system.

Protesters in Rome 's Piazza del Campidoglio on October 27, 2018. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

In April this year she defended herself against accusations she had failed to turn the situation around, saying Rome was "under attack" from mobsters determined not to release their grip on a lucrative sector.

Her comments followed several large blazes at waste treatment plants, and hundreds of bins set alight across the city.

Crime families in Italy have long held control over large parts of the country's waste management systems.

READ ALSO: Rome's rubbish crisis has become a political battle - but locals just want their city cleaned up

In 2014 the capital was shaken by revelations that the city administration had, for years, been infiltrated by a mafia-style network which syphoned off millions of euros destined for public services.

The criminal network, run by a one-eyed mobster with links to the far right, was dubbed "Mafia Capitale" by the media.

Italy's anti-corruption body in 2015 warned Rome lacked the "antibodies" necessary to fight the infiltration of gangsters.

Opposition parties were quick Wednesday to call for Raggi's head to roll, saying the Five Star Movement, which governs Italy as part of the ruling coalition, was running the capital city into the ground in an international embarrassment for Italy.

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