Bridge Collapses in Genoa, Italy, with 35 Deaths Reported

By Lorenzo Totaro and Gregory Viscusi | August 14, 2018

A bridge on the main highway running down the Italian Mediterranean coast collapsed in Genoa, with the death toll reported to be 35 people while others were trapped in the rubble.

A police video showed the viaduct connecting the A10 highway between southern France and the city on the western side of the Italian peninsula, completely cut in two. The Transport Ministry said traffic was interrupted in both directions on the A10 highway, with the disaster happening near the turnoffs for the freeway to Milan and the Genoa airport.

As dozens of rescue workers kept digging through the rubble in search of survivors, news agency Ansa quoted firefighters as saying the death toll had reached 35 people.

The Morandi bridge, a heavily traveled infrastructure as well as a soaring bypass between Genoese neighborhoods, opened in 1967 and was 1.1 kilometers long (0.7 miles) with a height of 45 meters (148 feet) above the Polcevera river.

Major Blow

The collapse amounts to a major blow to both maritime and land transport to and from the busy port city, with negative consequences for the Italian economy as a whole, Transportation and Infrastructure Deputy Minister Edoardo Rixi said in an interview with Sky Tg24 television on Tuesday afternoon.

RAI TV said rescue workers pulled four people out of the rubble alive, and numerous cars were crushed amid the debris. Ansa also reported that witnesses said they’d seen lightning hit the bridge.

Shares of Atlantia SpA, which runs the stretch of highway, fell almost 11 percent in Milan, the company’s biggest intraday drop since 2008, before reducing losses. The stock was down 5.3 percent as of 4:45 p.m.

Autostrade per l’Italia, the Atlantia unit that manages 3,000 kilometers of highway in Italy, said work had been underway to consolidate the viaduct, which was built in the 1960s. It said it would carry out an investigation into the causes of the collapse. The Benetton family is the biggest investor in Atlantia, which also manages highways in Chile, India, and Brazil, and airports in Italy and France. Atlantia jointly controls Spanish toll-road operator Abertis Infraestructuras in partnership with Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA.

Atlantia Chief Executive Officer Giovanni Castellucci said the company had not received any specific reports or alerts regarding the bridge’s solidity. Speaking to state-owned radio network RAI, he also said that there are “absolutely no” issues regarding the maintenance of the highway network across the country.

The Genoa bridge collapse follows by just one week a massive accident on another Atlantia-managed Italian highway. On Aug. 6 a tanker truck carrying a highly flammable gas exploded after rear-ending a stopped truck on a crowded highway near the northern Italian city of Bologna.

The events prompted Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini to reiterate that despite Italy’s commitment to contain its public debt as agreed by previous governments with the European Union, the current administration “might have to start questioning whether external constraints limiting spending for maintaining our infrastructure” have to be accepted.

There can’t be a tradeoff between fiscal rules and safety, Salvini told reporters in Catania, Sicily.

The disaster in Genoa highlights the need for a review of the safety at all the infrastructures across Italy, Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said in an interview with Sky Tg24. While it is too early to say whether lack of inspections contributed to the collapse, initial information suggests Atlantia’s Autostrade per l’Italia was in charge of bridge maintenance, he said.

Toninelli added that the government is united in opposing big, useless public works that often led to corruption in the past and that both coalition partners, the League and Five Star Movement, support more spending for the maintenance of existing infrastructure.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s office said he was heading to the site in the afternoon.

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