Published: Thu, August 16, 2018
Business | By Tara Barton

Anger grows in Italy as bridge collapse toll hits 39

Anger grows in Italy as bridge collapse toll hits 39

Witnesses reported seeing it hit by lightning in a storm just before it collapsed, but experts also dismissed the idea this would be behind the disaster.

Rescuers have said there is little hope of finding more survivors underneath the Morandi bridge, where dozens of vehicles fell from a height of 45m in Tuesday morning's collapse.

Civil protection authorities confirmed Wednesday that 39 people had died and 15 were injured.

But the risks presented by the Morandi bridge, built between 1963 and 1967, had always been clear.

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Shares in other toll-road firms such as SIAS and ASTM also fell, after Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said the state would have to take over the country's motorways if concession-holders could not do the job properly.

Engineering experts, noting that the bridge was 51 years old, said corrosion and weather could have been factors in its collapse.

"Autostrade should have done maintenance and didn't do it", he alleged.

Italy's transport minister called for the company management to resign and announced the government had launched a move to revoke the company's contract and hit it with a fine of 150 million euros ($170 million).

But Autostrade defended its overall safety record. "There could be one person or five". The company added that its safety investments have resulted in have resulted in fewer deaths and accidents.

Hours after the bridge collapse Italy's interior minister Matteo Salvini suggested that European Union budget constraints prevented local authorities from adequately repairing the bridge before its collapse. He tweeted that those responsible will "pay dearly".

"There can not be such slaughter without guilt", said Matteo Salvini, minister of the interior, one of two deputy prime ministers and the most powerful politician in the country. The collapse occurred in an industrial area.

Among the structures at risk was the Magliana Bridge in Rome, between the city centre and the capital's busiest airport, Fiumicino, he said.

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The Morandi bridge, which was inaugurated in 1967, is 90-metres high and just over 1km long.

At least four people were pulled alive from cars in the rubble and were being transported by helicopter to a hospital.

Firemen have worked through the night looking for any survivors buried under the rubble.

Details have begun to emerge in Italian media about those who died - workers on their way to clock in, vacationing families and foreign tourists.

The bridge, known as the Ponte Morandi, was built in the late 1960s and has undergone various redevelopment works over the years.

Italian newspaper La Repubblica said the victims included at least two families with children, a Chilean chef and several French tourists in their 20s bound for a ferry ride.

On Tuesday engineering website "Ingegneri.info" called it "a tragedy waiting to happen".

Pope Francis offered prayers for all those affected.

"I feel blessed, that's it", Mr Goccia said.

A general view of the Morandi bridge which collapsed today.

But Autostrade claims it carried out regular checks on the structure and has no idea why it collapsed.

But even as officials blamed Autostrade for the disaster, it could take weeks, perhaps months, for the exact cause to be determined.

And Canada's Globe and Mail reports that "mafia-related companies are known to have infiltrated the Italian cement and reconstruction industries over the decades, and prosecutors have accused them of doing shoddy work that can not withstand high stress".

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