Published: Wed, August 15, 2018
Money | By Hannah Jacobs

Pope Francis prays for victims of bridge collapse in Italy

Pope Francis prays for victims of bridge collapse in Italy

Rome: The death toll in the collapse of a bridge in the Italian city of Genoa rose to 37 even as rescuers continue to search for possible survivors, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Wednesday.

A witness to the deadly Genoa highway bridge collapse has provided a dramatic account of the disaster to Italian television SKY TG24, including a description of how a green truck stopped just short of the abyss.

But Autostrade, a unit of Milan-listed Atlantia group, said it had done regular, sophisticated checks on the structure before the disaster, relying on "companies and institutions which are world leaders in testing and inspections" and that these had provided reassuring results.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella said a "catastrophe" had hit Genoa and the whole of Italy, as attention turned to what might have caused the collapse and who might be ultimately responsible.

Unidentified fire brigade sources had earlier told Italy's ANSA news agency that as many as 35 people were killed.

Roberto Robbiano, his wife Ersilia Piccinino and their seven-year-old son Samuele are believed to have died when their vehicle plummeted to the ground after a section of the Morandi viaduct collapsed during torrential rain on Tuesday.

As cranes moved in to shift truck-sized chunks of broken concrete, hundreds of firefighters searched for survivors, while public shock and grief turned to anger over the state of the 1.2 km-long bridge, completed in 1967 and overhauled two years ago.

Italian media reported that 200 metres of the "Morandi" bridge had fallen away. "The vehicle in front of me disappeared, it seemed like it had been eaten by the clouds".

"I was at home and all the buildings were shaking, worse than in a huge natural disaster", said 86-year-old Pasquale Ranieri, who lives in a five-storey building under the Morandi bridge.

In Paris, France's foreign ministry said four French nationals were among the dead.

It called for a "Marshall Plan" to fix or replace tens of thousands of Italian bridges and viaducts built in the 1950s and 1960s, adding that simply updating or reinforcing the bridges would be more expensive than destroying and rebuilding them with new technology.

Angelo Borrelli, the head of the civil protection department, announced the latest death toll at a news conference in Genoa on Wednesday.

On Tuesday specialist engineering website "" published a piece that highlighted how the bridge had always presented "structural doubts", calling it "a tragedy waiting to happen".

He also said the government would inspect the structure of ageing bridges and tunnels across the country with a view to launching a program of remedial works if required.

Rescue teams worked through the night and into the morning to recover the victims.

"We have a duty to plan an extraordinary measure to monitor the state of infrastructure across the country", Conte told reporters in Genoa on Tuesday.

About a dozen people remained hospitalized in serious condition.

Meanwhile, investigators were also working to determine what caused an 80-meter (260-foot) long stretch of highway to break off from the 45-meter (150 foot) high bridge in the northwestern port city.

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