At least 22 people were killed and five critically injured in Tuesday's collapse of a motorway bridge running over the north-western Italian port city of Genoa.
Deputy Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Edoardo Rixi gave the death toll to the SkyTG24 broadcaster. ‘Yes, yes I can confirm that to you and, unfortunately, there will be more,’ he said.
Rixi, who is from Genoa, visited the scene of the accident.
The head of Italy's civil protection agency, Angelo Borrelli, gave a lower figure of 20 confirmed dead, plus 13 injured, including five in life-threatening conditions.
A boy, around the age of 10, was among the deceased, a civil protection agency officer said.
Some 30 to 35 cars and three trucks were involved in the accident, but it seems that the bridge did not crash into inhabited buildings, Borrelli said in a press conference in Rome.
The Morandi bridge ran over a creek, railway tracks, apartment blocks and warehouses in an industrial area, at a height of about 45 meters. The concrete structure was known as Genoa's ‘Brooklyn bridge.’ It was a key bypass between the Milan-Genoa motorway and the motorway connecting Genoa to the French border, and was usually heavily trafficked.
‘People who live in Genoa drive through this bridge a couple of times a day,’ Rixi said.
It collapsed shortly before noon (1000 GMT) amid heavy storms, but Borrelli said he could not confirm witnesses' accounts that it cracked after being hit by lighting.
Infrastructure and Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli wrote on Twitter that the accident looked like a ‘huge tragedy’ and said he was travelling to the scene.
Franco Nativo, a journalist for local television broadcaster Telegenova who was among the first on the spot, told the SkyTG24 news channel that he was confronted with ‘an apocalyptic scene.’ Motorway company Autostrade per l'Italia said the bridge was in the process of being reinforced, and that it was under constant monitoring.
Two years ago, an engineering professor at Genoa university, Antonio Brencich, called the bridge a ‘failure of engineering’ with ‘very high maintenance costs.’ By the end of the 1990s, the bridge had cost in maintenance works about 80 per cent of what it had cost to build it in the first place, Brencich told local TV Primocanale.
The Morandi bridge could be made redundant by the ‘Gronda,’ a planned new motorway bypass that has long faced opposition from environmental groups and other local activists.
Tuesday's accident could deepen tensions within Italy's populist government about the need to invest billions of euros on the ‘Gronda’ and other major infrastructure projects.
Toninelli's Five Star Movement (M5S) has criticized spending on high-speed train lines and highways as a waste of money, while its far-right coalition partner the League sees them as essential.
Last week there was another Italian deadly motorway bridge accident.
One person died and 145 were injured in Bologna after a tanker slammed into another lorry, causing a fire and an explosion that partly destroyed the bridge.Last updated: August 14 2018 05:31 PM
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