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Italy Bridge Collapse Kills 37, Ignites National Anger

The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy, on August 15.The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy, on August 15.

Rescue workers combed through the rubble of Italy’s bridge collapse on Wednesday as the death toll climbed to 37 and the government blamed the bridge’s private owner, demanding resignations and moving to strip its toll concession.

The 50-year-old bridge, part of a toll motorway linking the port city of Genoa with southern France, collapsed during torrential rain on Tuesday, sending dozens of vehicles crashing onto a riverbed, a railway and two warehouses, Reuters reported.

As cranes moved in to shift truck-sized chunks of broken concrete, hundreds of firefighters searched for survivors, while public shock and grief turned to anger over the state of the 1.2 km-long bridge, completed in 1967 and overhauled two years ago.

The condition of the bridge, and its ability to sustain large increases in both the intensity and weight of traffic over the years, have been a focus of public debate since Tuesday’s collapse, when an 80-meter span gave way at lunchtime as cars packed with holidaymakers as well as trucks streamed across it.

Italy’s transport minister said on Wednesday he had begun a process to fire the bridge’s concession-holder, Italian motorway firm Autostrade, a unit of Atlantia group, and he demanded top Autostrade managers resign.

“Autostrade per l’Italia was not able to fulfill its obligations under the contract regulating management of this infrastructure,” Danilo Toninelli said on RAI 1 state TV, adding that he would also seek to levy heavy fines against the company.

“I have given mandate to my ministry to start all proceedings to apply the agreement, that is to revoke the concession from these companies and seek significant sanctions which can reach up to €150 million based on the terms of the contract.”

Atlantia and Autostrade did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Morandi Bridge, named after the engineer who designed it, forms part of the A10 motorway run by Autostrade. The 55-km stretch of the A10 accounts for around 1.7% of total network traffic for Italy’s biggest toll road operator, according to one analyst’s estimate.

Genoa police put the death toll on Wednesday at 37, with 16 injured.

 

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