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Rome moves to clear rats out of Colosseum area

FILE PHOTO: View of Colosseum after restoration project in Rome

ROME (Reuters) - Rome's city government said on Saturday it was taking action to tackle an infestation of rats around the Colosseum after tourists posted photos on social media of the rodents roaming in areas close to the ancient amphitheatre.

The city's head of garbage collection Sabrina Alfonsi told Adnkronos news agency a "special intervention" was launched on Friday night and early Saturday to ensure people could pass safely around one of Italy's most visited tourist sites.

The operation will continue next week, the city government said in a statement, cleaning up the green areas surrounding the Colosseum, the drains where the rats are commonplace, and laying traps.

There are around 7 million rats in the city, the statement said, or 2.5 for every inhabitant.

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Alfonsi said a surge in tourists flocking to the Eternal City this summer, coupled with a heatwave, had led to an increase in rubbish which had favoured the proliferation of the rodents.

City hall issued photos of cleaning staff collecting heaps of plastic water bottles, drink cans and other debris against the backdrop of an illuminated Colosseum.

Rome has struggled with a simmering garbage crisis for many years, with piles of trash frequently dumped on the streets beside overflowing bins.

Built 2,000 years ago, the Colosseum was the biggest amphitheatre in the Roman empire and was used to host gladiator fights, executions and animal hunts.

(Reporting by Gavin Jones; Additional reporting by Alvise Armellini; Editing by David Holmes)