Italy Bridge Collapses in Powerful Storm; at Least 26 Killed

At Least 20 Dead in Genoa Bridge Collapse
The Morandi Bridge collapsed during a strong storm, sending dozens of vehicles plummeting more than 200 feet to the ground, killing at least 20 people.

At a Glance
The Morandi Bridge collapsed during a torrential rain Tuesday in Genoa, Italy.
The Italian prime minister said at least 26 people died and 15 others were injured.
Traffic along the bridge near the Italy-France border was likely heavier than usual because of an Italian holiday on Wednesday.

At least 26 people died when a 51-year-old bridge collapsed Tuesday in an industrial area of Genoa, Italy, authorities say.

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

Officials in the Liguria region said Tuesday night that 26 people had died, saying two more bodies had been found and one of the 16 injured had died in surgery. More than 30 vehicles were involved in the collapse, some of which plunged more than 150 feet as the span fell.

"It is shocking to see the twisted metal and the bridge collapsed with victims who were extracted," Conte told RAI state TV.

What caused the Morandi 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.

Witnesses reported hearing a roar as the 45-meter (nearly 150-foot) bridge collapsed in a torrential rain during midday traffic on the eve of a major holiday that sees most Italians abandoning cities for beaches and mountains.

Civil Protection authorities said at least 30 cars and three heavy vehicles were on the 260-foot section of the span that collapsed in the industrial area of warehouses.

There was an immense gap where the bridge used to be, and one heart-stopping image showed a green truck halted on the rain-slickened roadway just short of the edge.

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Video captured the sound of a man screaming: "Oh god, oh, god." Other images showed a green truck that had stopped just feet shy of the gaping hole in the bridge.

More than 300 rescue workers and canine crews were on the scene. They used heavy equipment and dogs to search for survivors in the rubble. At least four people were pulled alive from vehicles under the bridge, ANSA reported.

The Morandi Bridge, which is about 150 feet high and about 3,600 feet long, was inaugurated in 1967.

It is a main thoroughfare connecting the A10 highway that goes toward France and the A7 highway that continues north toward Milan.

The design of the bridge has been criticized in the past. Antonio Brencich, a professor specializing in reinforced concrete construction at the University of Genoa, called the span "a failure of engineering" in an interview in 2016.

"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," he told Italian media Primocanale.

Other engineers said corrosion or weather conditions could have contributed.

"As this reinforced and pre-stressed 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, a London-based international network. He called the bridge "an unusual design."

Source: weather

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