Dozens feared dead as bridge collapses in Italy's GenoaAugust 14, 2018 9:01pm

Aug. 14-- ROME-Thirty-five people are believed to have been killed after a motorway bridge collapsed Tuesday in the northwestern port city of Genoa.

The figure was reported by the ANSA news agency, quoting national fire department sources, though official sources said the number of confirmed deaths was provisionally lower.

The region of Liguria, which comprises Genoa, said there were 26 certified casualties and 15 injured, including nine in a critical state.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who interrupted his holidays to visit the scene of the accident, said the number of casualties "is unfortunately due to swell."

Some 30 to 35 cars and a handful of trucks fell from a height of nearly 150 feet as a large section of a concrete flyover collapsed shortly before noon local time during a heavy thunderstorm.

The Morandi Bridge, which was known to locals as Genoa's "Brooklyn Bridge," crashed over the bed of a river, railway tracks and a couple of warehouses in an industrial area of the city.

Police released a video of the collapsing bridge in which a man could be heard screaming, "Oh my god" five times, swearing and saying that what has happening before his eyes made him sick.

Italy's Civil Protection agency said a boy aged around 10 was among the dead, and indicated that the search for possible survivors would continue into the night.

The agency said apartment buildings near the bridge were luckily spared, and promptly evacuated. It could not confirm witness accounts that the bridge cracked after being hit by lighting.

The Morandi was a key bypass between the Milan-Genoa motorway and the motorway connecting Genoa to the French border, and was usually heavily trafficked.

"People who live in Genoa drive through this bridge a couple of times a day," Deputy Infrastructure and Transport Minister Edoardo Rixi, who is from Genoa, told the SkyTG24 news channel.

Infrastructure and Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli wrote of a "huge tragedy" on Twitter, while President Sergio Mattarella decried "an appaling and absurd calamity."

Franco Nativo, a journalist for local television broadcaster Telegenova who was among the first on the spot, told SkyTG24 that he was confronted with "an apocalyptic scene."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin were among the world leaders who sent condolence messages to Italy.

Private motorway company Autostrade per l'Italia said the bridge, built in the 1960s, was undergoing reinforcement work, and was under constant monitoring.

Two years ago, an engineering professor at the University of Genoa, Antonio Brencich, called the bridge a "failure of engineering" with "very high maintenance costs."

By the end of the 1990s, the bridge had cost in maintenance works about 80 percent of what it had cost to build it in the first place, Brencich told local TV Primocanale.

The Morandi Bridge could have been made redundant by the "Gronda," a planned new motorway bypass that has long faced opposition from environmental groups and other local activists.

In 2013, the "Platform for the No Gronda Committees" complained that the Genoese were being fed "hogwash about the imminent collapse of the Morandi Bridge" to justify the new bypass.

Tuesday's tragedy could reopen a debate within Italy's populist government on the need to invest billions of euros on the "Gronda" and other major new infrastructure projects.

Toninelli's Five Star Movement believes money would be better spent on routine maintenance, while its far-right coalition ally, the League, wants new high-speed train lines and highways.

Last week there was another Italian deadly motorway bridge accident that triggered calls for more spending on the country's ageing transport infrastructure.

One person died and 145 were injured in Bologna after a tanker slammed into another lorry, causing a fire and an explosion that partly destroyed the bridge.

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