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39 dead as rescuers search for survivors

15 August 2018, 6:03:00

Italian emergency workers pulled more bodies out of tons of broken concrete and twisted steel on Wednesday after a highway bridge collapsed in Genoa, raising the death toll to at least 39 people.

A 50-metre section of the Morandi Bridge – part of a toll highway and one of the main arteries into the port city – collapsed at about 12pm local time on Tuesday, taking down with it about 35 cars and three trucks that had been crossing at the time.

Huge slabs of reinforced concrete plunged onto two warehouses, train tracks and a riverbed

Civil protection authorities confirmed Wednesday that 39 people had died and 15 were injured. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said three children were among the dead.

Three people were missing and about a dozen remained hospitalised in serious condition, authorities said.

Working with heavy equipment, rescuers climbed over concrete slabs with sniffer dogs searching for survivors or bodies.

The head of Genoa's public prosecutor's office, Francesco Cozzi, said he was ready to "open a file for negligent multiple homicide and disaster", and it would be against unknown persons "because the reasons for the tragedy are still unknown".

Engineering experts, noting the bridge was 51 years old, said corrosion and weather could have been factors in its collapse.

Mehdi Kashani, an associate professor in structural mechanics at the University of Southampton in the UK, said pressure from "dynamic loads," such as heavy traffic or strong winds, could have resulted in "fatigue damage" in the bridge's parts.

Bridge operator Autostrade per l'Italia said it had carried out regular, sophisticated checks on the structure before the disaster and these had provided reassuring results.

Italy's transport minister ordered safety checks of all major infrastructure across the country. Danilo Toninelli also called on Wednesday for senior managers to resign at the company operating the bridge.

The government will also look into stripping Autostrade per l'Italia, a unit of the Atlantia group, of the concession to manage the motorway that included the Morandi Bridge, and imposing financial penalties on the group, Toninelli said.

The Morandi Bridge was built in the 1960s on the A10 toll motorway connecting Genoa to French border.

"Autostrade per l'Italia was not able to fulfil its obligations under the contract regulating management of this infrastructure," Toninelli said on RAI 1 state television.


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