Italy bridge collapse

  • Rescuers dig for survivors as anger mounts over Italy bridge collapse

    Genoa, Italy bridge collapse – Rescuers used diggers to claw through mountains of rubble, calling out in the hope of finding survivors as a desperate search for victims of the viaduct collapse entered its fourth day Friday with up to 20 people still missing.

     

    Italy’s government has intensified its attacks on the operator of the decades-old Morandi bridge, which buckled without warning on Tuesday, sending cars, trucks and huge chunks of concrete plunging 45 metres (150 feet) onto railway tracks below.

    Anger is rising over the tragedy that left dozens dead and the structural problems that have dogged the viaduct for decades.

    Despite dwindling expectations of finding survivors, rescue workers said they had not given up hope as they pressed on with the dangerous operation to search through the unstable mountains of debris.

    “Is there anyone there? Is there anyone there?” one firefighter shouted into a cavity dug out of the piles of concrete and twisted metal, in a video published by the emergency services.

    Cranes and bulldozers are working to help clear the site as hundreds or rescuers try to cut up and remove the biggest slabs of fallen bridge.

    “We are trying to find pockets in the rubble where people could be — alive or not,” fire official Emanuele Gissi told AFP.

    With the provisional toll at 38 dead, Genoa’s chief prosecutor has said that between 10 and 20 people could still be missing.

    – Grief and anger –

    The populist government has accused infrastructure giant Autostrade per L’Italia of failing to invest in sufficient maintenance — a claim the company denies — and said it would seek to revoke its lucrative contracts.

    Interior Minister Matteo Salvini demanded that the company offer up to 500 million euros ($570 million) to help families and local government deal with the aftermath of the disaster.

    “If we’ve put up five million euros, they should offer 500 million,” he told reporters.

    “There needs to be an immediate, concrete and tangible signal for these families: they should put their hands on their hearts and in their wallets.”

    Authorities plan a funeral service for the victims on Saturday, coinciding with a day of mourning.

    But local media said some families have chosen instead to hold private funerals, including the relatives of 24-year-old Stella Boccia, killed alongside her boyfriend.

    The dead also include children, one as young as eight, and three Chileans and four French nationals. Fifteen people were injured, five of whom are in serious condition.

    The French nationals, all in their 20s, had travelled to Italy to go to a music festival, and other victims included a family setting off on holiday and a couple returning from their California honeymoon.

    One Italian mother said she was out shopping when a huge chunk of concrete from the bridge hit the store she was in.

    “I was buried up to my chest, and my daughter was completely buried. I fainted several times, Marina Guagliata, 58, told Italian media from her hospital bed.

    More than 600 people were evacuated from around a dozen apartments beneath the remaining shard of bridge.

    On Thursday evening the first residents of some buildings in the affected area were allowed to return home, though others are too badly damaged to save.

    Local hotels and individuals have offered free lodging to those still displaced.

    – Infrastructure alarm –

    The Morandi viaduct was completed in 1967 and has been riddled with structural problems for decades, leading to expensive maintenance and severe criticism from engineering experts.

    Its collapse prompted the government to announce a year-long state of emergency in the region.

    Autostrade, which operates and maintains nearly half of Italy’s motorways, estimates it will take five months to rebuild the bridge.

    It denies scrimping on motorway maintenance, saying it has invested over one billion euros a year in “safety, maintenance and strengthening of the network” since 2012.

    Shares in Atlantia, the holding company of Autostrade, slumped Thursday in the face of the barrage of criticism.

    Atlantia has lashed out at the threats to revoke its concessions and warned that the government would have to refund the value of the contract, which runs until at least 2038.

    The disaster is the latest in a string of bridge collapses in Italy, where infrastructure generally is showing the effects of a faltering economy.

    Senior government figures have also lashed out at austerity measures imposed by the European Union, saying they restrict investment.

    But the European Commission said Italy it “will not engage in any political finger pointing”, adding that it had given Rome billions of euros to fix infrastructure.

    The collapse has prompted fears over ageing infrastructure across the world, including in Venezuela where a fire on a viaduct also designed by Italian engineer Riccardo Morandi caused a major blackout last week.

    Source :The Nation

     

  • Death toll rises to 35 in Italy bridge collapse

    Genoa, Italy – A frantic search was underway Wednesday for survivors under the shattered remains of a motorway bridge in Genoa as the death toll rose to 35 and investigators probed what caused the catastrophic collapse.

     

    Italy bridge collapse: A vast span of the Morandi bridge caved in during a heavy rainstorm in the northern port city on Tuesday, sending about 35 cars and several trucks plunging 45 metres (150 feet) onto the railway tracks below.

        “Unfortunately the toll has risen to 35 in the Genoa tragedy, including three children aged eight, 12 and 13 years old,” Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said, praising firefighters who worked tirelessly through the night.

    Rescuers recovered three bodies overnight, fire official Emanuele Gissi told AFP, after scouring the scene of devastation under floodlights.

    “We cannot know if there are survivors remaining, but it’s our job to search,” he said, adding that the rescue operation would take days.

    Sources in the interior ministry told Italian media that 16 people were wounded, including 12 in serious condition.

    The collapse came as the bridge was undergoing maintenance work and as the Liguria region, where Genoa is situated, experienced torrential rainfall.

    Italian President Sergio Mattarella said a “catastrophe” had hit Genoa and the whole of Italy.

    “Italians have the right to modern and efficient infrastructure that accompanies them safely through their everyday lives,” Mattarella said in a statement.

      – ‘I went down with the car’ –

    Rescuers scoured through the wreckage, strewn among shrubland and train tracks, as rescue helicopters winched survivors on stretchers from the ruined bridge.

    Between firefighters police and other emergency service, around a thousand people have been mobilised in the rescue effort, according to the Civil Protection service.

    As cars and trucks tumbled off the bridge, Afifi Idriss, 39, a Moroccan lorry driver, just managed to come to a halt in time.

    “I saw the green lorry in front of me stop and then reverse so I stopped too, locked the truck and ran,” he told AFP.

    Others that plunged down with the bridge managed to escape unscathed, including a former goalkeeper for Italian Serie A club Cagliari.

    “I was driving along the bridge, and at a certain point I saw the road in front of me collapse, and I went down with the car,” Davide Capello told TV news channel Sky TG24.

    The incident — the deadliest of its kind in Europe since 2001 — is the latest in a string of bridge collapses in Italy, a country prone to damage from seismic activity but where infrastructure generally is showing the effects of a faltering economy.

     

      – ‘Unacceptable’ way to die – 

    Aerial footage showed more than 200 metres (650 feet) of the viaduct, known locally as the Morandi bridge, completely destroyed.

    Salvini, who is co-deputy prime minister and leader of the nationalist League party in the new coalition government, vowed to hold those responsible for the disaster accountable.

    “I have gone over this bridge hundreds of times, and I commit to digging and finding out who is responsible for an unacceptable tragedy, because it’s not possible that in 2018 you can work and die in these conditions,” he said.

    Italy’s other deputy prime minister, Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio, is expected to arrive at the scene on Wednesday morning, with Salvini to follow in the afternoon.

    The national motorways body said on its website that “maintenance works were being carried out on the base of the viaduct”, adding that a crane had been moved on site to assist the work.

     

      – History of collapses –

    Genoa, home to half a million people, is located between the sea and the mountains of northwestern Italy.

    Its rugged terrain means that motorways that run through the city and the surrounding area are characterised by long viaducts and tunnels.

    The Morandi viaduct, completed in 1967, spans dozens of railway lines as well as an industrial zone with several factories.

    One factory, immediately next to one of the viaduct’s support columns, was virtually empty on Tuesday on the eve of a national holiday, and seems to have sustained minimal damage.

    “I live nearby and I cross the bridge every day on foot,” said Ibou Toure, 23, a translator. “I was never sure of it, you’d always hear these noises whenever lorries were going over.

    “When I heard it had collapsed, I wasn’t surprised.”

    In March last year, a couple were killed when a motorway overpass collapsed on their car near Ancona on the country’s Adriatic coast.

    A pensioner died in October 2016 when his car was crushed by a collapsing bridge over a dual carriageway between Milan and Lecco.

    That incident was blamed on bureaucratic bungling which led to a fatal delay in the bridge being closed after it was reported to be showing significant cracks.

     

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