updated 5/21/2007 5:31:47 PM ET 2007-05-21T21:31:47

Residents of Naples have begun burning heaps of garbage that have piled up for more than a week, adding potentially toxic smoke to the foul smell permeating the city, officials said Monday.

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Mounds of trash have piled as high as 10 feet in some places and blocked entire streets. Collectors had stopped hauling it away because they have nowhere to take it.

The southern Campania region — home to the luxurious Amalfi Coast but also the slums of Naples — has been plagued by garbage crises in recent years. Dumps fill up, and local communities block efforts to build new ones or create temporary storage sites. In 2004, the garbage crisis prompted weeks of protests.

Fire brigades said they extinguished more than 150 fires in and around Naples since Sunday, believed set by residents trying to dispose of the trash. The burning of chemicals have added to the already putrid smell of garbage.

The government recently approved construction of more dumps in the area, but there have been delays in getting them operational.

Last week, the official tapped to deal with the crisis, the respected civil protection chief Guido Bertolaso, resigned as “garbage czar” amid infighting about what to do.

Premier Romano Prodi refused to accept the resignation Monday, officials said.

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