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35 killed in Italy motorway bridge collapse

Updated August 15, 2018

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GENOA (Italy): The Morandi Bridge as seen after one of its sections collapsed on Tuesday.—AFP
GENOA (Italy): The Morandi Bridge as seen after one of its sections collapsed on Tuesday.—AFP

GENOA: At least 35 people were killed when a moto­rway bridge collapsed in torrential rains on Tuesday morning in the northern Italian port city of Genoa, Italy’s ANSA news agency cited fire brigade sources as saying.

A 50-metre-high section of the bridge, including one set of the supports that tower above it, crashed down in the rain onto the roof of a factory and other buildings, crushing vehicles below and plunging huge slabs of reinforced concrete into the nearby riverbed.

“People living in Genoa use this bridge twice a day, we can’t live with infrastructures built in the 1950s and 1960s,” Deputy Transport Minister Edoardo Rixi told SkyNews24, speaking from Genoa.

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

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

Helicopter footage on social media 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 the bridge.

Motorist Alessandro Megna told RAI state radio he had been in a traffic jam below the bridge 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,” he said.

Bridge constantly monitored

Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli told Italian state television the disaster poin­ted to a lack of maintenance, adding that “those responsible will have to pay”. 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”.

He said there was “no reason to consider the bridge was dangerous”. Restructu­ring work was carried out in 2016 on the 1.2-km-long bridge, first completed in 1967.

The motorway is a major artery to the Italian Riviera and to France’s southern coast.

Autostrade, a unit of Atlantia, said work to shore up its foundation was being carried out at the time of the collapse.

But the head of the civil protection agency, Angelo Borrelli, said he was not aware that any maintenance work was being done on the bridge.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2018