22 dead in Italy after motorway bridge collapses

A general view of rescuers at the scene of the collapsed Morandi motorway bridge in the northwestern city of Genoa

The Italian port city of Genoa began two official days of mourning Wednesday amid an urgent search for survivors of a catastrophic bridge collapse that has claimed at least 39 lives, including three children, authorities said.

Angelo Borrelli, head of the Civil Protection service which manages disaster areas, told reporters in Rome that an additional 13 people had been injured.

TRT World's Arabella Munro reports. So far, 16 people have been hospitalised, including 10 in critical condition, the agency said.

The office of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he was heading to Genoa in the evening and would remain there on Wednesday.

Within hours of the disaster on a morning of torrential rain, the anti-establishment government that took office in June said the bridge collapse showed Italy needed to spend more to improve its dilapidated infrastructure, ignoring European Union budget constraints if necessary.

"As yet, there is no evidence to say whether any impact occurred; it is too early to say what triggered the collapse", he said.

Aerial footage showed trucks and cars stranded on either side of the 80-metre long collapsed section of the Morandi Bridge, built on the A10 toll motorway in the late 1960s.

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The collapse came on the eve of a major Italian summer holiday on Wednesday called Ferragosto, which marks the religious feast of the Assumption of Mary.

"These kind of tragedies can not and should not happen in a civil country", Italy's transport minister, Danilo Toninelli, told the Italian TV channel TG1.

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

Italian firefighter work among the rubble of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy.

"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 $169 millon (150 million euros) based on the terms of the contract".

This technique also characterises another, even longer and just as problematic Morandi bridge: the 8.7-kilometre long General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge that spans the bay of Maracaibo, Venezuela, and was completed in 1962.

Davida Di Giorgio shot the video on his cell phone which captured the moment of the collapse.

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Italian Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, visiting the disaster scene, said bridge operator Autostrade would have to contribute to the cost of its reconstruction as well as pay heavy fines.

He said there was "no reason to consider the bridge was risky".

A section measuring about 200 m fell at around 11:30 local time (09:30 GMT).

Building a new bridge could take years, however, and its importance as part of the main artery connecting the south of France and Italy meant that plans to get rid of the existing structure were postponed.

A bridge collapsed in Genoa, Italy, Aug. 14, 2018.

Mehdi Kashani, an associate professor in structural mechanics at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, said pressure from "dynamic loads", such as heavy traffic or strong winds, could have resulted in "fatigue damage" in the bridge's parts.

Some 440 people were evacuated from buildings near by.

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