Italy weighs 3 options against Autostrade in Genoa bridge collapse-minister

Pauline Gross
August 18, 2018

Asked if authorities had been given any warning that the bridge - a key link between two major highways, one headed toward France and the other to Milan - could be risky, Cozzi indicated that no serious safety concerns had reached his office before the collapse.

"There can not be such slaughter without guilt", said Matteo Salvini, minister of the interior, one of two deputy prime ministers and the most powerful politician in the country.

Salvini said in Genoa on August 15 that it is hard to establish who is not responding because they are on vacation and "who doesn't respond because they are under the rubble".

"Miracles are still possible", Salvini said.

"It's not possible that someone pays a toll to die", he said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people have been evacuated from homes near parts of the bridge left standing and were told they may never be able to go back to their homes.

The disaster, on a major interchange connecting Genoa and other northern cities with beaches in eastern Liguria into France, has focused attention on Italy's ageing infrastructure, particularly its concrete bridges and viaducts built in the postwar boom of the 1950s and 1960s.

Experts warned the Morandi bridge was a disaster waiting to happen years before it collapsed in Genoa on Tuesday, killing dozens.

The dead include children aged eight, 12 and 13, according to Interior Minister Salvini, while three Chileans and four French nationals are among those killed.

In a statement, the Ministry of Transport said it had given the company 15 days to show it had previously met all its contractual obligations to ensure the proper functioning of the bridge and avoid accidents.

Questions are also being asked over the safety of bridges in France following the collapse.

Otherwise "none of us would have driven over that highway 20 times a month, as we do", Cozzi said.

A 20 million-euro ($22.7 million) project to upgrade the bridge's safety had already been approved, with public bids to be submitted by September.

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Pozzi said use of concrete-encased cables for bridges was considered a "pioneering technique" at the time but it was never widely adopted and came to be considered problematic.

Antonio Brencich, a professor of construction at the University of Genoa, said the design lent itself to swift corrosion and the bridge was in constant need of maintenance.

Italian politicians, for their part, were trying to find who to blame for the deadly tragedy.

Premier Giuseppe Conte said his government won't wait until prosecutors finish investigating the collapse to withdraw the concession from the main private company that maintains Italy's highways, Atlantia.

The prime minister also announced the government has begun the process of revoking the contract of the company managing Italy's highway system.

Residents near the bridge told RAI state TV they would hear maintenance work being done nearly nightly.

Luigi Di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement and Italy's deputy prime minister, claimed motorway tolls could be nationalised as he took aim at big business.

Around 35 cars and three trucks were crossing when a portion of the Morandi Bridge gave way, officials said.

He called for many Italian bridges to be replaced with structures with a lifespan of 100 years, saying that the costs of the "extraordinary maintenance" required to keep existing bridges functional would in many cases exceed those involved with demolition and reconstruction.

The woman, who was identified only as Leonine, told broadcaster Francetvinfo that they tried to make a U-turn but were blocked by traffic.

Upon receiving the bad news, her parents, who run a restaurant in Tuscany, told customers: "We apologise to our customers, but we will be closed for mourning".

Nicola and Lisa Henton-Mitchell were on holiday with their children, aged 12 and nine, in Italy when they were forced to abandon their auto and take shelter in a tunnel. "He should have fallen in".

Mr Goccia said he had opened his truck door to get out when he was under the bridge and heard a huge explosion.

Other reports by GizPress

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