At least 35 people have been killed and many seriously injured following the collapse of a motorway bridge near the northern city of Genoa.
Citing sources in the fire brigade, Italian news agency ANSA reports that at least 35 people have died, including at least one child.
Approximately 30 cars and up to 10 trucks were on the road were on the bridge when the disaster occurred, a senior official in the civil protection agency said.
Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini earlier said that around 30 people have been killed, while the official death toll stands at 20 and 16 injured. Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli described Tuesday’s events as an “immense tragedy.”
The 100-meter long section of the A10 motorway in the port city collapsed Tuesday morning. The bridge, also known as the Ponte Morandi, was built in 1968 but it underwent redevelopment work in 2016.
Writing on Facebook, Salvini said his team are monitoring the situation and paid tribute to “200 Firemen (and all the other heroes) who are already working to save lives.”
News agency ANSA reports that two people have been pulled alive from the rubble and flown to a nearby hospital.
A witness told Sky Italia that he saw “eight or nine” vehicles on the bridge when it collapsed.
Eyewitness Davide Ricci told La Stampa that the bridge collapsed just 20 meters away from his car. “First the central pillar crumbled, then everything else came down,” he said, adding that he his stuck on the upstanding section of the bridge while emergency crews attend the scene.
Sonar teams and rescue dogs have reportedly joined emergency crews in the rescue effort. The collapsed section passes over the densely populated Walter Fillake neighbourhood in the Sampierdarena district of the city, leading to fears that there may be further casualties on the ground. The rescue effort was temporarily halted after a gas leak forced firefighters to evacuate the site of the collapse, according to La Repubblica.
The bridge fell into part of the offices of AMIU, an environmental group, as well as warehouses for Ansaldo Energia, one of Italy’s leading energy plants. The Ansaldo plant was closed at the time but maintenance staff remain on site.
The director of motorway operator Autostrade (ASPI) has said that the collapse of the bridge was impossible to predict. The transport body, which is owned by the infrastructure group Atlantia and controlled by the holding company of the Benetton family, manages the stretch of highway that collapsed.
“The collapse was unexpected and unpredictable. The bridge was constantly monitored, even more than was foreseen by the law,” Stefano Marigliani, ASPI director for the Genoa area, told Reuters. “There was no reason to consider the bridge dangerous.”
The design of the bridge has come in for criticism in the past. Antonio Brencich, a professor specialising in reinforced concrete construction at the University of Genoa, called the Morandi bridge “a failure of engineering” in an interview with an Italian broadcaster in 2016.
The academic told Primocanale: “That bridge is wrong. Sooner or later it will have to be replaced. I do not know when. But there will be a time when the cost of maintenance will be higher than a replacement.”