Rescue teams continue search for Italy bridge collapse survivors

Saturday, 18 Aug, 2018

"When a auto overtook me I slowed down ..."

The highway bridge was a link between two major highways, one going to France and the other to Milan. Children aged eight, 12 and 13 were among the dead, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Wednesday, adding that more people were still missing. The structure was being "constantly monitored with highly specialised technology", a statement said. "Notwithstanding all these efforts, it came down".

The company said world-leading experts made regular safety inspections of the 1.2km-long bridge and it completed an overhaul two years ago. Experts say the concrete can deteriorate relatively quickly.

Matteo Pozzi, an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, said the bridge in Italy "was known to have problems", as evidenced by the upcoming upgrades. "There could be one person or five".

Montefusco, who grew up in Genoa, added: "It [the bridge] was a sort of jewel in Italian engineering, because at that time it was built with new engineering techniques".

Genoa's Mayor Marco Bucci told CNN that the bridge collapse was "not absolutely unexpected", but said that he didn't know the reason as to why, nor was he aware of the renovations.

But the government has turned on Autostrade for the disaster, threatening it with heavy fines and demanding it contribute to the bridge's reconstruction though investigators have yet to identify the exact cause. The next company would be held to "more stringent" rules for maintenance.

The Morandi Bridge collapsed without warning Tuesday, sending dozens of vehicles plunging as much as 50 meters (180 feet) below. They caused three deaths and four injuries.

"The collapse of Ponte Morandi is an enormous tragedy for our city", Genoa Mayor Marco Bucci said.

It called for a "Marshall Plan" to fix or replace tens of thousands of Italian bridges and viaducts built in the 1950s and 1960s, adding that simply updating or reinforcing the bridges would be more expensive than destroying and rebuilding them with new technology.

However, the bridge's condition, and its ability to sustain large increases in both the intensity and weight of traffic over the years, have been a focus of public debate since the collapse, when an 80-metre span gave way as cars packed with holidaymakers as well as trucks streamed across it.

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".

Atlantia said the decision to revoke its licence had been taken unilaterally and said compensation would be due if toll contracts were ended early. Until Thursday, authorities hadn't said how many people might be unaccounted-for.

The company expressed "its closeness to the families of the victims and the injured", and added that "our apologies are in our words and deeds". It was inaugurated in 1967 and went through major reinforcement work in the 1990s.

Autostrade, by far the biggest of these private companies, controls 3,020 kilometres (1,876 miles) of highway.

Italy's minister of transportation and infrastructure, Danilo Toninelli, said there was a plan pending to spend 20 million euro (£15.7 million) on bids for significant safety work on the bridge.

Commissioner Oettinger also pointed out that Italy is eligible to receive up to €2.5 billion of European Union structural funds to be invested in infrastructure for the 2014-2020 period.

Relatives who gathered at the hall on Friday embraced and prayed over lines of coffins, many adorned with flowers and photographs of the dead.

"Italy sorely needs higher and better public investments but they haven't been a priority for politicians in recent years", Piga said, noting that the previous administration had even appeared to divert some funds away from infrastructure after winning some budgetary leeway from Brussels for investments.