Advertisement

By Stefano Rellandini
GENOA, Italy (Reuters) 

Firefighters searched into the night on Tuesday for survivors and bodies amid the rubble of a motorway bridge that collapsed in the northern Italian port city of Genoa, killing at least 26

While that remained the official death toll, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said from Genoa that the number would rise. The ANSA news agency reported that it could reach around 35, citing fire brigade sources.

 

The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa
The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

 

A 50-metre (160-foot) high section of the bridge, including a tower that anchored several stays, crashed down with as many as 35 vehicles driving on it in torrential rain. Huge slabs of reinforced concrete plunged onto two warehouses, train tracks and a riverbed.

In its latest update, the government of the Liguria region tweeted that 19 bodies had already been identified and 15 people had been admitted to hospital, nine in critical condition.

 

The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa
The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy, August 14, 2018. Local Team via Reuters TV/REUTERS

 

More than 400 people were evacuated from buildings near or below the still-standing section of the bridge. The collapse appeared not to have killed anyone beneath the bridge, only people driving over it, the civil protection agency said.

Firefighters heard voices under the rubble and pulled out seven survivors, fire official Bruno Frattasi told the state broadcaster RAI.

 

 

“We hope to find more people alive,” police official Alessandra Bucci said.

Within hours of the disaster, the anti-establishment government that took office in June said the collapse showed Italy needed to spend more on its dilapidated infrastructure, ignoring EU budget constraints if necessary.

 

The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa
The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

 

“We should ask ourselves whether respecting these limits is more important than the safety of Italian citizens. Obviously for me, it is not,” said Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, head of the right-wing League, which governs with the 5-Star Movement.

 

“THEY WILL PAY”

The government has already pledged to increase public investment and lobby the European Commission to have the extra spending excluded from EU deficit calculations.

 

Rescue workers are seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge in the Italian port city of Genoa
Rescue workers are seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018 in this still image taken from a video. Local Team via Reuters TV/REUTERS

 

Salvini also said he wanted the “names and surnames of those who are to blame, because a tragedy like this in 2018 is not acceptable.”

“They will have to pay, pay for everything, and pay a lot,” he said.

 

Rescue workers are seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge in the Italian port city of Genoa
Rescue workers are seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018 in this still image taken from a video. Local Team via Reuters TV/REUTERS

 

Aerial footage showed trucks and cars stranded on either side of the 80-metre long collapsed section of the Morandi Bridge, built on the A10 toll motorway in the late 1960s. One truck was shown just metres away from the broken end of what locals called their “Brooklyn Bridge”.

 

Rescue workers are seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge in the Italian port city of Genoa
Rescue workers are seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018 in this still image taken from a video. Local Team via Reuters TV/REUTERS

 

Motorist Alessandro Megna told RAI state radio he had been in a traffic jam and seen the collapse:

“Suddenly the bridge came down with everything it was carrying. It was really an apocalyptic scene, I couldn’t believe my eyes.”

 

The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa in this picture released by Italian firefighters
The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa in this picture released by Italian firefighters on August 14, 2018. Italian Firefighters Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

 

An official for the civil protection agency said there had been 30 cars and five to 10 trucks on the section that fell.

Some 300 firefighters were working in the wreckage, using sniffer dogs to try to locate survivors, along with 400 police.

 

The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa in this picture released by Italian firefighters
The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa in this picture released by Italian firefighters on August 14, 2018. Italian Firefighters Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

 

“People living in Genoa use this bridge twice a day,” said Deputy Transport Minister Edoardo Rixi, who is from the city. “We can’t live with infrastructure built in the 1950s and 1960s.”

 

BRIDGE ‘CONSTANTLY MONITORED’

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

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

 

Firefighters carry body at collapsed Morandi Bridge site in Genoa
Firefighters carry a body at the collapsed Morandi Bridge site in the port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

 

“The collapse was unexpected and unpredictable. The bridge was constantly monitored and supervised well beyond what the law required,” Stefano Marigliani, the Autostrade official responsible for the Genoa area, told Reuters.

He said there had been no indication that the bridge was dangerous.

 

Firefighters stand next to crushed car at collapsed Morandi Bridge site in Genoa
Firefighters stand next to a crushed car at the collapsed Morandi Bridge site in the port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

 

Autostrade said it would work with investigators, and that it was already assessing how to rebuild the bridge.

In a 2016 interview posted online, Antonio Brencich, a University of Genoa professor specialising in reinforced concrete construction, said: “This bridge is usually characterised as a masterpiece of engineering, but in reality it is a failure of engineering.”

 

Crushed truck is seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge site in the port city of Genoa
A crushed truck is seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge site in the port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

 

He did not say at the time that it was in danger of collapsing, but that it required continuous maintenance and would eventually have to be torn down and replaced.

The 1.2 km-long bridge was completed in 1967 and overhauled in 2016. The motorway it carries is a major artery from northern Italy’s industrial centres to the Italian Riviera and to France’s southern coast.

 

Firefighters and rescue workers stand next to collapsed motorway Morandi Bridge site in Genoa
Firefighters and rescue workers stand next to a part of the motorway, at the collapsed Morandi Bridge site in the port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

 

Autostrade said work to reinforce the slab under the road surface was going on at the time of the collapse.

Premier Conte visited the rescue teams in Genoa, saying afterward that Italy’s infrastructure should be more closely monitored.

Atlantia shares closed down more than 5 percent.

 

(Additional reporting by Giulia Segreti, Valentina Za, and Ilaria Polleschi in Milan, and Angelo Amante, Massimiliano Di Giorgio, and Stefano Bernabei in Rome; Writing by Gavin Jones and Steve Scherer; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Kevin Liffey)

 

Fire fighters inspect from the helicopter the site of the collapsed Morandi Bridge in the port city of Genoa
Fire fighters inspect from the helicopter the site of the collapsed Morandi Bridge in the port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Massimo Pinca

 

Rescue workers recover a body at the site of the collapsed Morandi Bridge in the Italian port city of Genoa
Rescue workers recover a body at the site of the collapsed Morandi Bridge in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

 

The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa
The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

 

Rescue workers are seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge in the Italian port city of Genoa
Rescue workers are seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

 

Rescue workers are seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge in the Italian port city of Genoa
Rescue workers are seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

 

Keep reading (more images ahead) …