The sudden collapse of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa left Italians shocked and their politicians furious.
On Tuesday, an 80-metre span of the 50-year-old bridge gave way during heavy rains, crushing a railway, two warehouses and plummeting dozens of vehicles in to the riverbed. The collapse left at least 39 dead and 16 injured as it was packed with tourist vehicles and trucks during lunchtime.
The bridge was part of a toll motorway linking the port city of Genoa with southern France. The 1.2-km long bridge was completed in 1967. It was restructured in 2016 and major repairs done in the ’90s.
Fire brigade spokesman Luca Cari said 400 firefighters were at the site using cranes to lift big chunks of concrete to create spaces for rescue teams to search for victims.
“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,” eyewitness Ivan, 37, said. “In the ’90s they added some reinforcements on one part, but also underneath you can see rust.”
Salvatore Lorefice, a pensioner who lives a few hundred metres from the bridge, said cement had fallen off the structure as early as the ’80s when he worked at a warehouse directly under the bridge.
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.
“The collapse was unexpected and unpredictable. The bridge was constantly monitored, even more than was foreseen by the law,” said Stefano Marigliani, Autostrade director for Genoa. “There was no reason to consider the bridge dangerous.”
Salvini said they will impose the “highest penalties possible” and make responsible parties pay for the dead, injured and other damages.
Italian Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli visited the disaster scene and said bridge operator Autostrade per l’Italia is expected to contribute to the cost of its reconstruction as well as pay heavy fines up to 150 million Euros. He also stated he had begun a process to strip Autostrade of its concession and demanded top Autostrade managers resign.
The state of the bridge and its ability to sustain large increases in the intensity and weight of traffic over the years have become a focus of public debate since Tuesday.
Pope Francis offered a prayer for the victims and their loved ones in a public address at St Peter’s Basilica.