Hope for finding survivors dims

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August 16, 2018 - 10:47 AM

ROME (TNS) — Hopes that further survivors would be found in the rubble of a collapsed motorway bridge in the Italian city of Genoa were disappearing late Wednesday, as the official death toll was put at 39.
“Unfortunately it’s very likely that there are more victims under the rubble,” Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini told La7 television.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte earlier declared a 12-month state of emergency after a special Cabinet meeting in the northwestern port city.
The Morandi bridge collapsed on Tuesday, one day before a national holiday and during a heavy thunderstorm, sending 30 to 35 cars and three trucks crashing to the ground from a height of 150 feet.
Conte earmarked 5 million euros ($5.7 million) for urgent relief efforts, promising to appoint a commissioner to help rebuild the affected area.
He said 16 people had been injured in the disaster, including nine who were in critical condition.
Three children aged 8, 12 and 13, as well as several foreigners — four from France, two from Albania, one from Romania, one from Chile — have been named among the dead.
A funeral is to be held for the 39 identified victims on Saturday, Conte said in a later Facebook post, adding that it would coincide with a national day of mourning.
Earlier Wednesday, Genoa Chief Prosecutor Francesco Cozzi told state broadcaster RAI that 42 people had died, but that figure was not confirmed officially.
About 630 people were told to leave nearby homes because remaining parts of the bridge might collapse over them, authorities said, adding that the homes will probably have to be knocked down.
Some 1,000 rescue workers using sniffer dogs were taking turns in nonstop efforts to extract bodies and potentially survivors from the rubble.
“Work will continue for many hours,” Regional President Giovanni Toti told reporters, even if there is “feeble hope” of finding people still alive.
The Morandi was a key artery for Genoa, connecting motorways heading west to the French border and northeast to Milan. Its collapse was expected to cause major congestion problems.
The reinforced concrete structure was seen as innovative when inaugurated in 1967, but according to multiple reports, it was in need of constant repairs.
Motorway operator Autostrade per l’Italia had commissioned for later this year a 20 million euro makeover of its concrete beams, which are suspected to have broken and caused the tragedy.
Several trucks and cars could still be seen on the surviving part of the bridge, including a green lorry that managed to stop just before the road gave way.
Conte pledged an “extraordinary monitoring plan” to verify the condition of Italy’s aging road infrastructure, “because we cannot afford more tragedies like this one.”
Infrastructure and Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli blamed Autostrade for the Genoa collapse, and called on its management to resign immediately.
In his Facebook post, Conte said it was up to the judicial system to assign responsibility but added that the government “can’t wait any longer” and that steps had therefore been initiated to revoke Autostrade’s motorway concession.
Autostrade has insisted that the Morandi bridge was “monitored … every three months” with “highly specialized machinery” and following “international best practices.”
But two years ago, an engineering professor at Genoa University, Antonio Brencich, called the bridge a “failure of engineering” with “very high maintenance costs.”

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