Maintenance of Genoa Bridge Faces Blame After Deadly Collapse

(CN) — Following a bridge collapse in Genoa that killed at least 39 people, the leader of the Italy’s anti-business party took aim Wednesday at the private company in charge of highway maintenance.

Cars and trucks are left on a section of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy, on Aug. 15, 2018. A bridge on a main highway linking Italy with France collapsed in the Italian port city of Genoa during a sudden, violent storm, sending vehicles plunging nearly into a heap of rubble below. (AP Photo/Nicola Marfisi)

“Instead of investing money for maintenance, they divide the profits and that is why the bridge falls,” Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio said of the holding company Benetton group, which controls Autostrade Per Italia.

The private Autostrade controls 1,876 miles of Italian highways, including the 260-foot stretch of the Morandi Bridge that broke off on Tuesday, sending dozens vehicles plunging as much as 180 feet.

Speaking in Genoa on Wednesday, Di Maio said highway concessions could be revoked in response to Tuesday’s tragedy.

Di Maio is the leader of Italy’s 5-Star Movement. He accused previous Italian governments of letting the nation’s toll highways crumble because of political contributions.

In addition to the maintenance of the 51-year-old Morandi Bridge, Genoa prosecutor Francesco Cozzi said Wednesday that investigators are also studying the bridge’s design.

Though it is unclear yet whether anyone will bear legal responsibility for the collapse, Cozzi told reporters that “for sure it was not an accident.”

News reports have said that many in the city said the Morandi Bridge needed reinforcement, but Cozzi said there were no pending complaints involving the bridge.

If there had been serious concerns about the safety of the bridge in the prosecutor’s office, “none of us would have driven over that highway 20 times a month as we do,” the prosecutor said.

Prior to its collapse, however, a $22.7 million safety upgrade for the bridge had been planned, the head of Italy’s transport department has said.

A view of the Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy, on Aug. 15, 2018, after it collapsed a day earlier during a sudden and violent storm. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

The bridge collapse occurred at the height of the holiday travel season, and France has reported that three French citizens are among the dead.

Though the victims’ names have not been released, local media reported they were two young women and a man from Toulouse who had traveled to Italy for a music festival.

Albanian authorities meanwhile have counted two Albanian men among those killed.

Angelo Borrelli, the head of the civil protection department, said Wednesday that the search for missing persons remains underway, with 1,000 rescuers working at the scene.

Italian television SKY TG24 quoted a dramatic account of the bridge collapse from one witness, a driver identified only as Idris, who saw a green truck stopped just short of the abyss.

The truck was saved because another vehicle passed it at the last second, forcing the truck to brake slightly, said Idris, who then watched in horror as the passing car “went down.”

“He went back three meters then left the motor running and ran,” Idris said of the driver. “I was behind him, two cars back. I backed up a little, leaving space for other cars. When I saw the thing was so big, that everything had fallen, I took the keys and got out of there.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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