Anthony M. Quattrone
Neapolitans celebrated the arrival of the new year by chaotically and haphazardly exploding thousands of skyrockets and other fireworks. Like every year, during the time frame from midnight to about two hours later, Naples was an undeclared “off-limits” area for pedestrians and cars alike. During this time, the chances of being hit by skyrockets or by stray bullets is considered critically high. This year, the piles of uncollected garbage, spread throughout most of the city and the suburbs, became a tempting target for occasional arsonists. By dawn of the first day of the year, the authorities reported that the “midnight battle” had claimed one death and seventy injured. A 39-year old died from wounds caused by a stray bullet in Crispano, a town in the province of Naples. A 29-year old tourist was hit by a stray bullet in his face, but he miraculously survived the injury, expelling the bullet stuck in his nose with a sneeze. A boiler exploded in Volla, a in the province of Naples, destroying a building and injuring two persons. Many others suffered severe burns, lost limbs or lost an eye.
Authorities had enrolled the support of soccer players, musicians, and actors, to plead the citizenry to not explode illegal fireworks. Firemen spent part of the evening of the 31 December watering down the piles of garbage in downtown Naples hoping to reduce the chances that stray rockets would dangerously ignite the waste. In spite of the preventive work done by the fire department and the continuous appeals by the authorities, garbage caught fire in many parts of the city. The burning garbage set off fires that spread to parked cars and, in a couple of cases, also to buildings.
Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had promised during the past several months, on several occasions, to rid Naples of garbage, but he failed to keep his promises. The last time, immediately after Christmas, he had promised that Naples would have been clean by New Year’s eve. By midnight some parts of the city and the suburbs were clean, thanks to the praiseworthy work performed by the Italian Army, who had been deployed to collect thousands of tons of garbage in the downtown area and in the suburbs. Naples mayor Rosa Russo Iervolino, publicly thanked the Army for their work, noting that only through the cooperation of all institutions, from local to national, it is possible for Naples to climb out of the garbage crisis.
According to councilman Giovanni Romano, who is responsible for Regional environmental services, “the waste collection plants have worked well during the night and by now the city should be rid of garbage.” Garbage collection started up immediately after the midnight celebrations and the waste plants and dumping grounds have been open since 3 A.M. Romano speculates that Naples and suburbs should be clean within the next ten to twelve days. Time will tell if Romano’s assessment is correct. In the meantime, the burning garbage is still smoking in many parts of the city.