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Grief, anger as Italy bridge tragedy death toll rises to 39

Rome, Wednesday

Grief in Italy for the 39 victims of a collapsed motorway bridge in Genoa has been mixed with anger that such a vital structure could have simply given way.

Rescuers have little hope of finding more survivors underneath the Morandi bridge, where almost 40 vehicles fell 45 metres in Tuesday’s collapse. The cause is not yet known but there have been calls for the heads of the company operating the bridge to resign.

The tragedy has focused anger on the structural problems that have dogged the decades-old bridge and the private sector firm Autostrade per l’Italia, which is currently in charge of operating and maintaining the country’s motorways.

Survivors have also been recalling the horror of the bridge’s collapse. Hundreds of firefighters worked overnight with lifting gear, climbing equipment and sniffer dogs to try to locate more survivors. But an Italian Red Cross spokeswoman told the BBC’s Tim Willcox that only bodies had been found.

The local prefecture raised the death toll on Wednesday morning to 39, 37 of them identified. At least three children lost their lives.

The city’s authorities have declared two days of mourning. There are 16 people being treated in hospital, 12 of them in a serious condition.

Some 440 people were evacuated from the area. Residents of council housing blocks under one pillar were ready to move back, but were then told it was cracking and their homes were at risk.

The Morandi bridge, built in the 1960s, stands on the A10 toll motorway, an important conduit for goods traffic from local ports, which also serves the Italian Riviera and southeast coast of France.

Families in their cars, people going to work, people going on holiday. It could take many hours to find out exactly how many people died and identify them.

Counsellors are on hand at emergency centres to help relatives. Some of the names of the victims have been appearing in Italian media.

Among the dead were a family of three —Roberto Robbiano, 44, Ersilia Piccinino, 41, and their young son Samuel.

One of the most telling testimonies came from Davide Capello, 33, a former goalkeeper for Serie A side Cagliari. His car fell but came to rest in a pocket between the columns and he survived.

“I was able to get out… I don’t know how my car wasn’t crushed. It seemed like a scene from a film, it was the apocalypse,” he said.

Valentina Galbusera, 43, a doctor, told La Stampa: “The bridge fell in front of me, not even 20m away, I avoided the collapse by only a couple of seconds. I felt the bridge was shaking and I tried to reverse. Then I got out of the car and started running.”

Wednesday brought an angry response to the collapse from Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli. He called on the top management of Autostrade to resign, saying it had failed to meet its contractual obligations.

He said he would seek to fine the company heavily and revoke its operational licence.

-BBC

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