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Bridge collapse shocker

A 51-year-old highway bridge in the Italian port city of Genoa collapsed in a driving rain Tuesday, killing at least 26 people and injuring 15 others as it sent dozens of vehicles tumbling into a heap of concrete and twisted steel.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte called it "an immense tragedy ... inconceivable in a modern system like ours, a modern country."

The disaster, on a major interchange connecting Genoa and other northern cities with beaches in eastern Liguria into France, focused attention on Italy's aging infrastructure, particularly its concrete bridges and viaducts built in the postwar boom of the 1950s and 1960s.

What caused the Morandi Bridge to fall remained unknown, and prosecutors said they were opening an investigation but had not identified any targets. Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said the collapse was "unacceptable" and that if negligence played a role "whoever made a mistake must pay."

Witnesses reported hearing a roar as the 45-metre bridge collapsed in a torrential rain during midday traffic.

One unidentified woman who was standing below told RAI state TV that it crumbled as if it were a mound of baking flour. Video of the collapse, showing a misty scene of crumbled concrete, captured a man screaming: "Oh, God! Oh, God!"

Civil Protection authorities said at least 30 cars and three heavy vehicles were on the 80-metre section of the span that collapsed in the industrial area of warehouses.

There was an immense gap where the bridge used to be, and one heart-stopping image showed a green truck halted on the rain-slickened roadway just short of the edge.

A man who was standing under the bridge in front of his truck at the time of the collapse called it "a miracle" that he survived. The middle-aged man, who did not give his name, said the shockwave sent him flying over 10 metres into a wall, injuring his right shoulder and hip.

"I was in front of the truck and flew away, like everything else. Yes, I think it's a miracle. I don't know what to say. I'm out of words," he said, walking away from the site.

More than 300 rescue workers and canine crews were on the scene. They used heavy equipment and dogs to search for survivors in the rubble. At least four people were pulled alive from vehicles under the bridge.

"Operations are ongoing to extract people imprisoned below parts of the bridge and twisted metal," said Angelo Borrelli, the head of Italy's civil protection agency.

Officials evacuated several hundred people living along the raised highway that traverses the city as a precaution.


UPDATE: 11:30 a.m.

Italian Premier Conte says 22 are confirmed killed and 16 injured in highway bridge collapse in Genoa.

That death toll may rise further, however, he says.


UPDATE: 6:17 a.m.

Italian transport official: 22 dead, 8 injured in the Genoa highway bridge collapse.

More coming.


ORIGINAL: 5:17 a.m.

A bridge on a main highway between Italy and France collapsed Tuesday in the Italian city of Genoa during a sudden, violent storm, sending vehicles plunging 80 metres into a heap of rubble below.

Amalia Tedeschi, a firefighter, told RAI state TV that some 20 vehicles had been involved in the collapse. She said two people had been pulled alive from vehicles in the rubble that fell into an industrial area below the bridge and were being transported by helicopter to a hospital.

Italian media reported deaths in the tragedy, but Maria Luisa Catalano, a police official in Genoa, said authorities were focused on rescue efforts and did not yet know the number of victims or injured.

The private broadcaster Sky TG24 said a section of the Morandi Bridge collapsed over an industrial zone. Firefighters told The Associated Press they were worried about gas lines exploding in the area from the collapse.

Photos published by ANSA on its website showed a huge gulf between two sections of the bridge.

Video captured the sound of a man screaming: "Oh God! Oh, God!" Other images showed a green truck that had stopped just short of the gaping hole in the bridge. The tires of a tractor trailor could be seen in the rubble.

Italy's transport minister, Danilo Toninelli, called the collapse "an enormous tragedy."

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said some 200 firefighters were responding to the accident.

"We are following minute by minute the situation of the bridge collapse in Genoa," Salvini said on Twitter.

The disaster occurred on a highway that connects Italy to France and other vacation resorts on the eve of a major Italian holiday on Wednesday, Ferragosto. Traffic would have been heavier than usual as many Italians travelled to beaches or mountains.

The Morandi Bridge is a main thoroughfare connecting the A10 highway that goes toward France and the A7 highway that continues north toward Milan. 

ANSA said authorities suspected that a structural weakness caused the collapse on Tuesday.



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