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ITALY | Motorway collapse

Italy bridge collapse kills 39, race to find survivors


Reuters
News Agency

Wednesday, August 15, 2018, 8:08 - Rescuers hunted for survivors among huge chunks of debris on Wednesday after a bridge collapse that killed 39, as furious government ministers rounded on the viaduct's operator, saying it should pay fines and compensation and lose its concession.

The 50-year-old bridge, part of a toll motorway linking the port city of Genoa with southern France, collapsed during torrential rain on Tuesday, sending dozens of vehicles crashing onto a riverbed, a railway and two warehouses.

(SEE ALSO: Italy disaster sparks infrastructure concerns closer to home)

(RELATED: Photos and videos emerge from Italy bridge collapse tragedy)

Eye-witness Ivan, 37, evacuated on Tuesday from the nearby building where he works, described the collapse as unbelievable.

"To see a pylon come down like papier-mâché is an incredible thing," he said. "It's been a lifetime that we've known there were problems. It is in continual maintenance."

"In the 90s they added some reinforcements on one part, but also underneath you can see rust."

WATCH BELOW: MOMENT ITALY BRIDGE COLLAPSES CAUGHT ON CAMERA



As cranes moved in to shift truck-sized chunks of broken concrete, hundreds of firefighters searched for survivors, while public shock and grief turned to anger over the state of the 1.2 km-long bridge, completed in 1967 and overhauled two years ago.

Bridge operator Autostrade, a unit of Milan-listed Atlantia group, said it had carried out regular, sophisticated checks on the structure before the disaster and that these had provided reassuring results.

"Furthermore, the company's technicians have relied, in order to assess the state of the viaduct and the efficacy of control systems being adopted, of companies and institutions which are world leaders in testing and inspections based on best international practices," it said in a statement.

But the condition of the bridge, 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 Tuesday's collapse, when an 80-metre span gave way at lunchtime as cars packed with holidaymakers as well as trucks streamed across it.

A woman cries being embraced by a fire fighter as she leaves the site of the collapsed Morandi Bridge in the port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Massimo Pinca

Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said the private sector manager of the bridge had earned "billions" from tolls but "did not spend the money they were supposed to" and its concession should be revoked.

He was apparently referring to Autostrade.

"Imposing the highest penalties possible and making sure that those responsible for the dead and the injured pay up for any damages and crimes is the very least," he said.

Fire brigade spokesman Luca Cari said 400 firefighters were at the site, lifting big chunks of concrete to create spaces for rescue teams to check for survivors.

In Paris, France's foreign ministry said three French nationals were among the dead.

Italy's transport minister said on Wednesday he had begun a process to strip Autostrade of its concession and he demanded top Autostrade managers resign.

"Autostrade per l'Italia was not able to fulfill its obligations under the contract regulating management of this infrastructure," Danilo Toninelli said on RAI 1 state TV, adding that he would also seek to levy heavy fines against the company.

STRUCTURAL INSPECTIONS

"I have given mandate to my ministry to start all proceedings to apply the agreement, that is to revoke the concession from these companies and seek significant sanctions which can reach up to 150 million euros based on the terms of the contract."

The Morandi Bridge, named after the engineer who designed it, forms part of the A10 motorway run by Autostrade. The 55-km (34 mile) stretch of the A10 accounts for around 1.7 percent of total network traffic for Italy's biggest toll road operator, according to one analyst's estimate.

"The top management of Autostrade per l'Italia must step down first of all," Toninelli said in a Facebook post.

He also the government would inspect the structure of ageing bridges and tunnels across the country with a view to launching a program of remedial works if required.

Within hours of the disaster, the anti-establishment government that took office in June said the collapse showed Italy needed to spend more on its dilapidated infrastructure, ignoring EU budget constraints if necessary.

Genoa police put the death toll at 37, with 16 injured.


The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

(Additional reporting by Stefano Rallendini, Mark Bendeich, Valentina Za, Stefano Bernabei and Sarah White in Paris, Editing by Andrew Heavens, William Maclean)

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