Survivors describe Italy bridge collapse

Danny Woods
August 16, 2018

Some 30 people were killed on Tuesday when a vast span collapsed during a heavy rainstorm, sending vehicles and their drivers plunging 100 metres onto railway tracks below.

It was designed by Riccardo Morandi and completed in 1967, but restructuring work was done in 2016.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has declared a state of emergency for the Liguria region, which includes Genoa, one of Italy's busiest ports.

"We're now at 38 confirmed deaths and some people missing", Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini told reporters on the sidelines of an event in the southern region of Calabria. Some of the wreckage landed in a dry riverbed that could flood when the rainy season resumes in a few weeks. At one point, Sky TG24 said, residents were temporarily stopped from even returning to their homes briefly to grab essential documents, medicine or other necessities.

After the search for bodies ends, tons of debris needs to be cleared away as soon as possible.

The 51-year-old structure collapsed in driving rain on Tuesday, killing at least 37 people and injuring 15 others.

Government officials said of the 39 dead, 37 have been identified.

The local government confirmed that the periodic maintenance work undertaken on the bridge's foundation coupled with torrential rainfalls, could be the cause of the collapse of the bridge that linked Italy and France.

Genoa prosecutor Francesco Cozzi told reporters: "I don't know if there is responsibility".

Salvini said in Genoa on Wednesday that it was hard to establish who is not responding because they are on vacation and "who doesn't respond because they are under the rubble".

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Autostrade was about to launch a 20 million euro ($23 million) bidding process for major safety improvements to the bridge. According to business daily Il Sole, work would have been done to improve two weight-bearing columns that support the bridge - including one that collapsed Tuesday.

"When, in 10 years' time, the Morandi bridge collapses, and everyone is stuck in traffic jams for hours, we'll need to remember the names of those who said no", said Giovanni Calvini, who was then regional president of Confindustria, an employers' association.

The bridge sees some 25 million vehicles every year, and a 2011 report by an Italian highways company said that the bridge had been suffering from degradation.

It has since emerged that warnings had been issued over the bridge - which was built during a post-war construction boom by Società Italiana per Condotte d'Acqua in the 1960s - as far back as 2012.

"There has not been sufficient maintenance and checks, and safety work for many bridges and viaducts and bridges in Italy constructed - nearly all - during the 1960s", he said.

Italian politicians, for their part, were trying to find who to blame for the deadly tragedy.

Autostrade del Italia, the privately-owned company that had the contract for maintenance of the A10 motorway, said in a statement that "work was underway to shore up the foundations of the viaduct and that, as planned, a auto bridge had been installed to allow maintenance activities to be carried out".

'"Many motorways need maintenance but often we are told we can not spend money because of European constraints - limits, deficits, the GDP, debt", he explained elsewhere. Autostrade, which operates almost 3,200km of Italian motorways, is controlled by the Benetton group through its holding company, Atlantia.

Deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio said the tragedy "could have been avoided". He blamed previous Italian governments of turning a blind eye to the health of the nation's toll highways because of political contributions.

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

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