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14 Aug, 2018 10:51

At least 35 dead as motorway bridge collapses near Genoa, Italy

At least 35 people have been killed and many seriously injured following the collapse of a motorway bridge near the northern city of Genoa.

“The latest official number is 35 but we can’t rule out that it could rise further,” said a police spokeswoman in Genoa on Wednesday. Italian media also reported that the death toll has reached 37, citing prefecture data. 

Firefighters worked all night to look for any survivors that may be trapped under the rubble.

Approximately 30 cars and up to 10 trucks were on the motorway when the disaster occurred, a senior official in the civil protection agency said.

Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli described Tuesday’s events as an “immense tragedy.”

READ MORE: ‘This is hell’: Eyewitnesses relay tragic Genoa bridge collapse (VIDEOS, PHOTOS)

The 100-meter long section of the A10 motorway in the port city collapsed Tuesday morning. The bridge, also known as the Ponte Morandi, was built in 1968 but it underwent redevelopment work in 2016.

Writing on Facebook, Salvini said his team are monitoring the situation and paid tribute to “200 Firemen (and all the other heroes) who are already working to save lives.”

News agency ANSA reports that two people have been pulled alive from the rubble and flown to a nearby hospital.

A witness told Sky Italia that he saw “eight or nine” vehicles on the bridge when it collapsed.

Eyewitness Davide Ricci told La Stampa that the bridge collapsed just 20 meters away from his car. “First the central pillar crumbled, then everything else came down,” he said, adding that he stuck on the upstanding section of the bridge while emergency crews attend the scene.

Sonar teams and rescue dogs have reportedly joined emergency crews in the rescue effort. The collapsed section passes over the densely populated Walter Fillake neighbourhood in the Sampierdarena district of the city, leading to fears that there may be further casualties on the ground. The rescue effort was temporarily halted after a gas leak forced firefighters to evacuate the site of the collapse, according to La Repubblica.  

The bridge fell into part of the offices of AMIU, an environmental group, as well as warehouses for Ansaldo Energia, one of Italy’s leading energy plants. The Ansaldo plant was closed at the time but maintenance staff remain on site.

‘No reason to consider dangerous’

The director of motorway operator Autostrade (ASPI) has said that the collapse of the bridge was impossible to predict. The transport body, which is owned by the infrastructure group Atlantia and controlled by the holding company of the Benetton family, manages the stretch of highway that collapsed.

"The collapse was unexpected and unpredictable. The bridge was constantly monitored, even more than was foreseen by the law," Stefano Marigliani, ASPI director for the Genoa area, told Reuters. "There was no reason to consider the bridge dangerous."

The design of the bridge has come in for criticism in the past. Antonio Brencich, a professor specializing in reinforced concrete construction at the University of Genoa, called the Morandi bridge “a failure of engineering” in an interview with an Italian broadcaster in 2016.

The academic told Primocanale: “That bridge is wrong. Sooner or later it will have to be replaced. I do not know when. But there will be a time when the cost of maintenance will be higher than a replacement.”

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