Italy Bridge Collapse, Killed At Least 39 People, And Has Left 16 Injured

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Italy Bridge Collapse, Killed At Least 39 People, And Has Left 16 Injured

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte declared a 12-month state of emergency covering the region around Genoa after a bridge collapse killed 39 people and severed the port city’s main land corridor with southern France.

Conte, speaking at a news conference in Genoa on Aug. 15, said the tragedy was unacceptable in a modern society.

The 51-year-old bridge, part of a toll motorway linking the port city of Genoa with southern France, collapsed during torrential rain on Tuesday, Aug. 14, sending dozens of vehicles crashing onto a riverbed, a railway, and two warehouses.

The collapse killed at least 39 people, and has left 16 injured, including nine in serious condition.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte declared a 12-month state of emergency covering the region around Genoa after a bridge collapse killed 39 people and severed the port city’s main land corridor with southern France.

Conte, speaking at a news conference in Genoa on Aug. 15, said the tragedy was unacceptable in a modern society.

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The 51-year-old bridge, part of a toll motorway linking the port city of Genoa with southern France, collapsed during torrential rain on Tuesday, Aug. 14, sending dozens of vehicles crashing onto a riverbed, a railway, and two warehouses.

The collapse killed at least 39 people, and has left 16 injured, including nine in serious condition.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini says the search is continuing for people under the rubble of the collapsed bridge in Genoa, but he has declined to say how many people are feared missing.

Salvini said in Genoa on Aug. 15 that it is hard to establish who is not responding because they are on vacation and “who doesn’t respond because they are under the rubble.”

He added that he hoped the number still buried will be small, adding “miracles are still possible.”

Authorities urged the quick removal of tons of debris from a dry river bed so that the rubble doesn’t create a makeshift dam if heavy rains fall in the flood-prone city on the Mediterranean.

Debris also must be cleared from railroad tracks, a vital link especially now that Genoa is largely cut in half by the loss of such a key artery, Premier Giuseppe Conte said.

Authorities worried about the stability of remaining large sections of the bridge, prompting a wider evacuation order and forcing about 630 people from nearby apartments, some practically in the shadow of the elevated highway.

Genoa Prosecutor Francesco Cozzi told reporters the investigation into the collapse was focused on human causes, specifically any possible design flaws in the bridge’s construction or any inadequate maintenance.

He said he didn’t know who might be responsible, but added, “It wasn’t an accident.”

Asked if authorities had any warning that the bridge could be dangerous, Cozzi indicated that no serious safety concerns had reached his office before the collapse.

Otherwise, “none of us would have driven over that highway 20 times a month, as we do,” he said.

A 20 million-euro ($22.7 million) project to upgrade the bridge’s safety had already been approved, with public bids to be submitted by September. According to business daily Il Sole, improvement work would have involved two weight-bearing columns that support the bridge — including one that collapsed on Aug. 14.

The bridge, considered innovative when it opened in 1967 for its use of concrete around its cables, was long due for an upgrade, especially since it was more heavily trafficked than its designers had envisioned.

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One expert, Antonio Brencich at the University of Genoa, had previously called the bridge “a failure of engineering.” Other engineers, noting its age, said corrosion and decades of wear-and-tear from weather also could have been factors in the collapse.

Conte said the government wouldn’t wait until the investigation was completed to revoke the concession of a private company, Autostrade Per L’Italia, that operates many of the nation’s toll highways. The next company would be held to “more stringent” rules for maintenance.

Residents near the bridge told RAI state TV they would hear maintenance work being done almost nightly.

Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio alleged Autostrade’s holding company took profits “instead of investing money for maintenance.”

Autostrade, a unit of Milan-listed Atlantia group, said it had done regular, sophisticated checks on the structure before the disaster, relying on “companies and institutions, which are world leaders in testing and inspections” and that these had provided reassuring results.

Toninelli, the transportation and infrastructure minister, said his ministry had started procedures so Autostrade could be fined up to 150 million euros ($170 million).

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