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‘Immense tragedy’ as Genoa motorway bridge collapses

AFP | The Morandi motorway bridge after it collapsed in Genoa on August 14, 2018.

A section of a massive motorway bridge collapsed in the Italian city of Genoa Tuesday sending vehicles plunging into a heap of rubble below and killing at least 35 people.

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The Morandi Bridge, on a main highway linking Italy with France, collapsed in a violent storm around noon local time.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte called it "an immense tragedy ... inconceivable in a modern system like ours, a modern country".

A Genoa police spokesperson said on Wednesday morning, "The latest number is 35 but we can't rule out it could rise further".

The section of the Morandi Bridge collapsed over an industrial zone, sending tons of twisted steel and concrete debris onto warehouses below. Photos from the site showed a massive, empty gulf between two sections of the bridge.

A fire service spokesperson told AFP that the bridge had mostly fallen on rail tracks 100 metres (110 yards) below, taking "cars and trucks" with it.

Firefighters told The Associated Press they were worried about gas lines exploding in the area from the collapse.

What caused the bridge to fall remained unknown, and prosecutors said they were opening an investigation but had not identified any targets. Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said the collapse was "unacceptable" and that if negligence played a role "whoever made a mistake must pay".

Early speculation focused on the structural weakness of the span.

Conte added: "It's clear that we need to immediately plan special measures. We need to launch a monitoring plan for all infrastructure and we must not allow another tragedy like this to happen again."

Video captured the sound of a man screaming: "Oh God! Oh, God!" Other images showed a green truck that had stopped just short of the gaping hole in the bridge. The tires of a tractor trailor could be seen in the rubble.

Salvini said some 200 firefighters had responded to the accident, with rescuers working under floodlights long into the night into Wednesday.

"We are following the situation of the bridge collapse in Genoa minute-by-minute. I thank the 200 firefighters (and all the other heroes) who are working to save lives right now," Salvini said on Twitter.

Heavy summer traffic

The disaster occurred on a highway that connects Italy to France and other vacation resorts on the eve of a major Italian holiday on Wednesday, Ferragosto. Traffic would have been heavier than usual as many Italians traveled to beaches or mountains.

French President Emmanuel Macron offered Italy help in the rescue effort and condolences to the families of the victims.

"Our thoughts go to the victims, their relatives and all the Italian people. France stands by Italy in that tragedy and is ready to provide all necessary support," said Macron in Twitter posts in French and Italian.

Genoa is located between the sea and the mountains of northwestern Italy. Its rugged terrain means that motorways that run through the city and the surrounding area are characterised by long viaducts and tunnels.

The Morandi Bridge is a main thoroughfare connecting the A10 highway that goes toward France and the A7 highway that continues north toward Milan. Inaugurated in 1967, it is 90 metres (295 feet) high, just over a kilometre (.6 miles) long, with the longest section between supports measuring 200 metres (over 650 feet).

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

 

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