Rescuers search rubble for survivors after motorway bridge collapses in Genoa, Italy leaves at least 35 dead
Posted On July 18, 2020
Firefighters with sniffer dogs were working through the night to try to find survivors beneath the rubble of a giant bridge that collapsed in the Italian port city of Genoa.
At least 35 people, including a child, died in the disaster, which happened as the city was lashed by an intense thunderstorm, but the toll was expected to rise.
Officials said 15 people were injured and 10 of them were in a critical condition. Four people were pulled alive from the rubble.
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte called it "an immense tragedy … inconceivable in a modern system like ours, a modern country."
Dozens of cars and trucks plunged 150ft to the ground after the elevated motorway suddenly collapsed.
Huge slabs of reinforced concrete slammed into warehouses and other buildings, most of which were unoccupied because of the summer holidays.
Italy’s populist government, which came to power in June, said the collapse was the result of years of underinvestment in infrastructure, shoddy maintenance and EU budget constraints.
Danilo Toninelli, the transport minister, earlier said in a tweet that he was "following with great apprehension what seems like an immense tragedy".
Genoa motorway bridge collapses
Up to 100 yards of the motorway collapsed at around 11:30am (9.30am GMT) during torrential rainfall after Genoa was hit by a strong thunderstorm.
Several witnesses said the bridge was hit by a bolt of lightning during the storm.
Cars and trucks were stranded on either side of the collapsed portion of the bridge, their drivers escaping death by just a few yards.
Alessandro Megna was in a traffic jam beneath the bridge when it collapsed.
"Suddenly the bridge came down with everything it was carrying. It was really an apocalyptic scene, I couldn’t believe my eyes," he said.
Among the survivors was a former professional footballer whose car went down with the bridge.
Davide Capello, 33, a former goalkeeper for Italian Serie A club Cagliari who is now a firefighter, miraculously managed to walk away from the disaster.
"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," he told TV news channel Sky TG24.
He managed to clamber out of his car, which he said was "attached to a pylon", and climb down the rubble to the firefighters waiting below.
“I don’t know how my car wasn’t crushed. It seemed like a scene from a film, it was the apocalypse," he said.
"The debris from the collapse came to within 20 metres of my car," said a witness, Davide Ricci, who saw the bridge go down while he was driving.
"First the central pylon crumbled, then the whole thing came down."
Another witness told Sky Italia television he saw "eight or nine" vehicles on the bridge when it collapsed in what he said was an "apocalyptic scene".
The first injured have been extracted from the rubble and taken to hospital, according to Italian media reports.
Italian news agency ANSA said one person had been extracted alive and was being transported by helicopter to a hospital.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said around 200 firefighters were responding to the accident.
"We are following minute by minute the situation for the bridge collapse in Genoa," Mr Salvini said on Twitter.
Genoa bridge collapse map
A video has emerged on Facebook of the moment the bridge collapsed, with a witness saying "Oh my God, oh my God."
The fire service said it was feared that cars that were on the motorway had plummeted when it suddenly gave way.
Italian television showed images of the collapsed bridge, which was built on the A10 toll motorway in the 1960s.
Restructuring work on the bridge was carried out in 2016.
The disaster occurred on a highway that connects Italy to France and other holiday resorts on the eve of a major Italian holiday on Wednesday, Ferragosto, and traffic would have been heavier than usual as many Italians travelled to beaches or mountains.
What caused the bridge to collapse?
Lack of maintenance, structural failure, torrential rain and lightning strikes were all factors that could have contributed to the catastrophic collapse of the Genoa bridge.
The concrete bridge was built in 1967 and questions were being asked over whether its structural integrity had deteriorated over time.
A report published in 2011 by the Italian highways agency said the Morandi bridge, designed by celebrated Italian engineer Riccardo Morandi, who died in 1989, carried heavy volumes of traffic and needed constant maintenance.
“Queues of cars and the volume of traffic cause intense decay of the Morandi viaduct structure on a daily basis,” Autostrade per l’Italia said.
A senior manager from Autostrade per l’Italia said the bridge’s collapse was impossible to predict and it was too early to determine what caused it.
"The collapse was unexpected and unpredictable. The bridge was constantly monitored, even more than was foreseen by the law," Stefano Marigliani told Reuters. "There was no reason to consider the bridge dangerous.”
Several witnesses said it was struck by lightning shortly before it collapsed.
“It was just after 11.30am when we saw a lightning bolt hit the bridge,” a witness identified only as Pietro told Ansa, the national news agency. “Then we saw it fall down.”
An expert in structural engineering said it was too early to say whether the violent storm could have contributed to the collapse.
"As this reinforced and pre-stressed concrete bridge has been there for 50 years it is possible that corrosion of tendons or reinforcement may be a contributory factor," said Ian Firth, former president of The Institution of Structural Engineers.
"The fact that there was reported to be a storm at the time may or may not be particularly relevant.”