At least 35 people were killed when a bridge collapsed in the Italian port city of Genoa, police said on Wednesday after firemen worked through the night looking for any survivors buried under the rubble.
‘The latest official number is 35 but we can’t rule out it could rise further,’ a spokeswoman for the police in Genoa said.
A 50-metre high section of the bridge, including a tower that anchored several stays, crashed down with as many as 35 vehicles driving on it in torrential rain on Tuesday. Huge slabs of reinforced concrete plunged onto two warehouses, train tracks and a riverbed.
In its latest update, the government of the Liguria region tweeted that 19 bodies had already been identified and 15 people had been admitted to hospital, nine in critical condition.
More than 400 people were evacuated from buildings near or below the still-standing section of the bridge.
The collapse appeared not to have killed anyone beneath the bridge, only people driving over it, the civil protection agency said.
Firefighters heard voices under the rubble and pulled out seven survivors, fire official Bruno Frattasi told the state broadcaster RAI.
‘We hope to find more people alive,’ police official Alessandra Bucci said.
Within hours of the disaster, the anti-establishment government that took office in June said the collapse showed Italy needed to spend more on its dilapidated infrastructure, ignoring EU budget constraints if necessary.
‘We should ask ourselves whether respecting these limits is more important than the safety of Italian citizens. Obviously for me, it is not,’ said deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, head of the right-wing league, which governs with the 5-Star Movement.
The government has already pledged to increase public investment and lobby the European Commission to have the extra spending excluded from EU deficit calculations.
Salvini also said he wanted the ‘names and surnames of those who are to blame, because a tragedy like this in 2018 is not acceptable.’
‘They will have to pay, pay for everything, and pay a lot,’ he said.
‘People living in Genoa use this bridge twice a day,’ said deputy transport minister Edoardo Rixi, who is from the city. ‘We can't live with infrastructure built in the 1950s and 1960s.’
Transport minister Danilo Toninelli told state television that the disaster pointed to a lack of maintenance.
‘The collapse was unexpected and unpredictable. The bridge was constantly monitored and supervised well beyond what the law required,’ Stefano Marigliani, the Autostrade official responsible for the Genoa area, told Reuters.
Autostrade said it would work with investigators, and that it was already assessing how to rebuild the bridge.
The 1.2km-long bridge was completed in 1967 and overhauled in 2016. The motorway it carries is a major artery from northern Italy's industrial centres to the Italian Riviera and to France's southern coast.
Autostrade said work to reinforce the slab under the road surface was going on at the time of the collapse.
Premier Conte visited the rescue teams in Genoa, saying afterward that Italy's infrastructure should be more closely monitored.