Death toll hits 39 in Italy bridge collapse; blame begins
GENOA, Italy (AP) — Italian prosecutors on Wednesday focused their investigation into the Genoa highway bridge collapse on possible design flaws or inadequate maintenance, as the death toll rose to 39 and Italian politicians looked for someone to blame.
Fears mounted that a part of the Morandi Bridge which is still standing could also coming crashing down. That prompted authorities to widen their evacuation to include some 630 people living near the highway bridge that was carved in two by the collapse of its midsection during a violent storm.
On Tuesday, just as many Italians were driving to vacation destinations on the eve of Italy’s biggest summer holiday, a huge stretch of the 51-year-old bridge collapsed, sending over 30 cars and three trucks plunging to the ground as far as 150 feet below.
As this crippled major Mediterranean port city of 600,000 reeled from the tragedy, about 1,000 rescue workers on Wednesday kept searching through tons of broken concrete slabs, smashed vehicles and twisted steel from the bridge for any more bodies. At least two more were pulled out.
Some of the tons of debris that rained down from the bridge landed in a dry stream bed, while other wreckage came crashing down perilously close to apartment buildings. At one point, Sky TG24 said, residents were temporarily stopped from even returning to their homes briefly to grab essential documents, medicine or other necessities.
Besides searching through the mountain of debris, emergency workers said it has to be cleared away as soon as possible. Genoa is a flood-prone city, and authorities warned that the piles in the dry riverbed could become a dam in a matter of hours if heavy rains arrive.
Civil protection chief Angelo Borrelli confirmed Wednesday that 39 people had died and 15 were injured. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said three children were among the dead. Three French citizens and two Albanians were also killed.
Genoa Prosecutor Francesco Cozzi told reporters the investigation into the collapse was focused on human causes, specifically the possibility of inadequate maintenance or a design flaw in the bridge’s construction.
“’I don’t know if there is responsibility. For sure it was not an accident,” he said.
Asked if authorities had been given any warning that the bridge — a key link between two high-speed highways, one headed toward neighboring France and the other to Milan — could be dangerous, Cozzi indicated that no serious safety concerns before Tuesday had reached his office.
Otherwise “none of us would have driven over that highway 20 times a month as we do,” Cozzi said.
Work to upgrade the bridge’s safety with a $22.7 million project had already been approved, with public bids for the work to be submitted by September. According to the business daily Il Sole, the improvement work involved two weight-bearing columns that support the bridge — including one that collapsed Tuesday.