Italy hunts for blame in bridge collapse that killed 39

16 August, 2018, 13:14 | Author: Brooke Harris
  • The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa Italy

Handout / Vigili del Fuoco / AFP.

Chilling images have emerged of the doomed Italian bridge "crumbling" up to 18 months before it collapsed, killing at least 39 people.

Two more bodies have been pulled out of tonnes of rubble after a bridge collapsed in Genoa, raising the death toll in the disaster to at least 39 people.

Genoa, home to half a million people, is located between the sea and the mountains of northwestern Italy.

Children aged eight, 12 and 13 were among the dead, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said, adding that more people were still missing.

Roberto Robbiano, 44, his wife Ersilia Piccinino, 41, and their son Samuel all died in the tragedy, Italian newspaper La Stampa reported.

This was the fifth bridge collapse in Italy in five years, according to Corriere Della Sera.

"I don't know if there is responsibility".

"Instinctively, finding myself in front of the void, I put the van into reverse, to escape this hell", he added.

Four young French friends on their way to a techno music festival were also among the dead: Melissa Artu-Bastit, her boyfriend Nathan Gusman, and friends Axelle Place and William Pouzadoux.

The tragedy has focused anger on the structural problems that have dogged the decades-old bridge and the private sector firm Autostrade per l'Italia, which is now in charge of operating and maintaining swathes of the country's motorways.

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".

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"I'm following with the utmost apprehension what is happening in Genoa and what looks like it could be an huge tragedy", Transport and Infrastructure minister Danilo Toninelli said on Twitter.

The firm, which said the bridge had been undergoing maintenance work, however, released a statement refuting accusations that motorway infrastructure had been underfunded.

The top management of the private company responsible for maintenance of the motorway has been called on to resign.

Survivors who witnessed the bridge collapse have spoken about the horror moment of watching nearly 100m of road collapse as if it was "made with flour".

"I was driving along the bridge, and at a certain point I saw the road in front of me collapse, and I went down with the auto", Davide Capello told TV news channel Sky TG24. The driver of the green truck apparently had to hit his brakes because of the passing auto and was able to stop in time, he added.

Italy's government said it meant to revoke the company's contract and hit it with a fine of 150 million euros ($170 million).

Ian Firth, former president of The Institution of Structural Engineers, told the Daily Mail, "It is too early to say what caused the tragic collapse, but as this reinforced and prestressed concrete bridge has been there for 50 years it is possible that corrosion of tendons or reinforcement may be a contributory factor".

In 2016, Antonio Brencich of the University of Genoa's engineering faculty also sounded the alarm.

On Tuesday specialist engineering website Ingegneri.info published a piece that highlighted how the bridge had always presented "structural doubts", calling it "a tragedy waiting to happen".

The highway bridge was a link between two major highways, one going to France and the other to Milan.

Media reports said it would be held on Saturday to coincide with some of the funerals.

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