Saturday, 22 September, 2018

Italian bridge collapses, death toll climbs to 35

A view of the Morandi motorway bridge after a section collapsed A view of the Morandi motorway bridge after a section collapsed
Ellis Copeland | 15 August, 2018, 13:57

At least 35 people were killed when a bridge collapsed in the Italian port city of Genoa, police said on Wednesday after firemen worked through the night looking for any survivors buried under the rubble.

"The latest official number is 35 but we can't rule out that it could rise further", a spokesman for the police in Genoa said.

More than 400 people were evacuated from buildings near or below the still-standing section of the bridge. "We hope to find more people alive".

Italian President Sergio Mattarella said a "catastrophe" had hit Genoa and the whole of Italy, as attention turned to what might have caused the collapse and who might be ultimately responsible.

Deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, the highest-profile politician in Italy's government, said the country needed to figure out the "names and surnames of those who are guilty of these unacceptable deaths".

"Italians have the right to modern and efficient infrastructure that accompanies them safely through their everyday lives", Mattarella said in a statement.

The affected portion of the Morandi Bridge was some 80 metres long.

One truck was shown just metres away from the broken end of what locals call the "Brooklyn Bridge". "It seemed like a scene from a film, it was the apocalypse", he said.

Sources in the interior ministry told Italian media that 16 people were wounded, including 12 in serious condition.

Some 300 firefighters were working in the wreckage, using sniffer dogs to try to locate survivors.

Montefusco, who grew up in Genoa, added: "It [the bridge] was a sort of jewel in Italian engineering, because at that time it was built with new engineering techniques".

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Ponte Morandi, built in the 1960s, was undergoing repairs when the tragedy happened.

Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli told state television that the disaster pointed to a lack of maintenance.

Autostrade, a unit of infrastructure group Atlantia that is controlled by the Benetton family, manages the section of the toll highway that collapsed.

"As yet, there is no evidence to say whether any impact occurred; it is too early to say what triggered the collapse", he said.

But Stefano Marigliani, the motorway operator Autostrade's official responsible for the Genoa area, told Reuters the bridge was "constantly monitored and supervised well beyond what the law required".

Antonio Brencich, an associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Genoa, raised concerns about the structure of the bridge in an interview in 2016.

Fire services chief Emanuele Gissi told CNN Wednesday morning that no new survivors had been found overnight, but three more bodies had been discovered.

The design of the elevated road had been criticised in the past.

A huge section of the Morandi Bridge fell at midday over an industrial zone, sending tons of twisted steel and concrete onto warehouses below.

"There will be a time when maintenance costs will exceed those of reconstruction, and then we will have to proceed with the replacement". But he added that they were about to launch a 20 million euro ($22.7 million) bidding process for significant safety work on the bridge.

The degradation may have also been compounded by heavy traffic on the bridge, which sees some 25 million vehicles every year and sits on a major artery, the A10, serving the Italian Riviera and linking northern Italy to France.

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