20 people may still be missing after Italian bridge collapse

Rescuers are still searching the rubble after a section of the Morandi Bridge fell.


The Morandi Bridge (AP)
The Morandi Bridge (AP)

As many as 20 people could still be missing in the rubble of the collapsed Morandi Bridge in Genoa, the city’s chief prosecutor said.

Searchers have been combing through tonnes of debris since the collapse of the structure on Tuesday which left 38 people confirmed dead.

Italian authorities lowered the death toll by one following a “misunderstanding” about information from ambulance dispatchers.

Genoa chief prosecutor Francesco Cozzi told reporters that “there could be 10 to 20 persons still missing”.

Interior minister Matteo Salvini said it has been difficult to come up with an exact number as some of those reported missing by loved ones might actually be holidaymakers who reached their destination and have not contacted family or friends in recent days.

Authorities have announced plans for a state funeral for the victims to be held on Saturday morning in the north-western city, with the day designated one of national mourning. The ceremony will be presided over by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the Genoa archbishop.

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A green truck managed to stop perilously close to the edge (Antonio Calanni/AP)

A day earlier, the Italian cabinet approved a 12-month state of emergency for the area, and Italian premier Giuseppe Conte said his government will not wait until prosecutors finish investigating the collapse to withdraw the concession from the main private company that maintains Italy’s highways, Atlantia.

The company responsible for the bridge said it would take “rigorous action” if it emerges that any of its staff were in any way responsible for the fatal incident.

Autostrade per l’Italia said it is cooperating with authorities on the investigation and conducting its own internal inquiry into the collapse.

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The company responsible for the bridge promised a swift inquiry (AP)

Responding to interior minister Matteo Salvini’s appeal for the company to give the families of victims a concrete response, the company said “our apologies are in our words and deeds”.

It added that managers are working to facilitate rescue operations, restore traffic circulation to an acceptable level and come up with a plan to reconstruct the bridge as soon as possible.

The European Union has hit back at an Italian claim that the collapse was somehow linked to budget restraints imposed from outside Italy.

EU spokesman Christian Spahr reacted after Mr Salvini criticised rules that limit budgetary spending, and linked them to the safety of infrastructure. Italy has been criticised by the eurozone for budgetary gaps and had been called on to rein in spending.

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Interior minister Matteo Salvini had hinted at EU restrictions having had a part to play (AP)

Mr Spahr said that “the time has come to make a few things clear”, insisting that in the 2014-2020 EU budget plan, Italy is set to receive around 2.5 billion euro (£2.23 billion) under EU investment plans for network infrastructures – including roads.

He added that in April, the EU “also approved under EU state aid rules an investment plan for Italian motorways which will enable around 8.5 billion euro (£7.5 billion) of investments to go ahead, including in the Genoa region”.

“In fact,” Mr Spahr said, “the EU has encouraged investment in infrastructure in Italy.”

Survivors of the collapse have described the moment the road fell away beneath them.

Davide Capello said he was driving across the bridge on Tuesday when “I heard a heavy sound, and I saw cars in front of me falling”.

He added: “I saw the road collapse then I fell with them. I thought it was all over for me.”

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A worker is lifted by a crane in front of the collapsed bridge (Alessandro Di Marco/ANSA via AP)

But he said he suffered only minor injuries because his car fell between concrete blocks that formed a sort of protection from further damage.

A French woman, identified only as Leonine, said she was travelling across the bridge with her husband and three-year-old son at the time of the collapse.

She said: “We saw the pylon go completely to the right, and we realised what was happening.”

They tried to reverse the car, then “opened our doors, took our son out of his car seat and then left, running until the tunnel”.

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Worker inspect the the area around the collapsed structure (AP)

The collapse occurred at about noon on Tuesday, on the eve of Italy’s biggest summer holiday, when traffic was particularly busy on the 51-year-old span that links two major roads – one leading to France, the other to Milan.

A 20 million-euro (£17.8 million) project to upgrade the bridge’s safety had already been approved prior to the collapse, 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 Tuesday.

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 carried more traffic than its designers had envisioned.

Press Association

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