At Least 25 Dead As Italian Highway Bridge Collapses

Tuesday, August 14th 2018, 8:54 am
By: News On 6

The mayor of the Italian city of Genoa says the death toll in the collapse of a highway bridge in the city has risen.
Genoa Mayor Marco Bucci told Sky TG24 that the number of dead was now above 25 people and that 11 others who were injured have been pulled from the rubble.

A huge section of the Morandi Bridge on a main highway linking Italy with France collapsed Tuesday in Genoa during a sudden, violent storm, sending vehicles plunging 45 meters (nearly 150 feet) into a heap of rubble below.

Hundreds of rescue workers with sniffer dogs are searching through the tons of rubble and twisted metal looking for more victims.

The bridge is on a key highway that connects Genoa to the eastern Liguria coastline and to France.

Angelo Borrelli, the head of Italy's civil protection agency, told a press conference in Rome on Tuesday that the victims appear to all have been in vehicles that plunged from the bridge. Borrelli said that while there are two warehouses below the collapse it is believed they were closed for the summer holiday and that no one was inside. He said no residences were involved.

Borrelli said that highway engineers were checking the safety of the bridge in other points, and that some areas were being evacuated as a precaution.

It's too early to say what caused the deadly collapse of a highway bridge in the Italian city of Genoa, but corrosion or weather conditions could have been part of the cause, a structural engineer specializing in bridges says.

"As this reinforced and prestressed 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.  In addition, ongoing work on the bridge may or may not be partly responsible for the collapse," he added.

Firth said the bridge is an unusual design but is similar to a larger bridge in Venezuela, and both were designed by Riccardo Morandi.

He said that at least 20 vehicles on the bridge had plunged in the collapse, and that also people in buildings below the bridge were in some way involved. That included the trash management offices for the city of Genoa.

Rescuers were digging through the rubble to try and find people in cars that fell through the collapsed section.  

ANSA reported that a structural weakness was suspected of causing the collapse. The portion of highway that collapsed was about 200 yards long. Images tweeted by Italian police showed the highway through the city with a large section missing and a truck stopped just in front of what was left as a precipice. 

A fire service spokesperson told AFP the bridge collapsed primarily onto rail tracks about 100 yards below and that "cars and trucks" had fallen with the rubble. 

Witnesses told Sky Italia that they believed at least 10 vehicles were trapped under the rubble. Another video tweeted by the Italian state police showed part of the actual collapse in what appeared to be cell phone video. A man's voice can heard screaming in Italian, "oh God! Oh God!" over the clip. 

CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata reports that Italian officials have said the region was hit by a sudden, violent storm just before the collapse. Images from the scene show heavy rain falling.