ROME - Rescuers continue their search for possible survivors and bodies of victims of Tuesday’s highway bridge collapse in Italy. The death toll is at 38, but authorities say some people are still unaccounted for and no one is prepared to call off the search and rescue operation. Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes near parts of the bridge that remained standing.
The city of Genoa’s chief prosecutor has said there may still be 10 to 20 people missing and not all the recovered bodies have been identified. Sniffer dogs and large earth-movers are being used to search around large chunks of concrete in the debris of the collapsed bridge. Family members of those unaccounted for still hope a miracle may have kept their loved ones alive.
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. Authorities said the homes might have to be torn down, along with the remaining bridge, which will then be rebuilt.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte met with Deputy Prime Ministers Matteo Salvini and Luigi di Maio, and the infrastructure minister, Danilo Toninelli, to take immediate measures following the disaster.
Conte declared a state of emergency for the northern port city of Genoa for 12-months and earmarked $5.6 million from national emergency funds for removal of the remaining parts of the bridge and re-developing the road system. He also said Italians would observe a national day of mourning Saturday when state funerals will be held for the victims.
The prime minister also announced the government has begun the process of revoking the contract of the company managing Italy’s highway system. The firm, Autostrade per l’Italia, said it carried out regular maintenance and safety checks on the bridge that gave reassuring results.
A criminal investigation has been launched to ascertain the cause of the collapse. Prosecutors are investigating negligence in maintenance and the bridge’s design.
Genoa chief prosecutor Francesco Cozzi said it is a disaster caused by human failure and those responsible will be liable for manslaughter.
Experts like Antonio Brencich, a professor of construction at Genoa University, had warned two years ago the bridge was in need of being replaced, but his message was not heeded. Since its completion in 1967, the number of vehicles and weight load on the bridge each day significantly increased.
Local residents had also long complained the bridge was unsafe.
Speaking on national television, this Genoa resident said it was an expected tragedy because every day she traveled on it she could feel it move. She added that there was always some repair going on. Even in recent days, workmen were busy on the bridge.