A major four-lane bridge in the northern Italian city of Genoa collapsed Tuesday in stormy weather, sending cars plummeting 150 feet while leaving at least 26 people dead and 15 injured.
At least 20 cars were on the bridge, part of a highway that connects the port city with the French border to the west, when it fell.
Mangled trucks and cars littered a dry part of the Polcevera riverbed, while more than 200 firefighters worked to dig through the wreckage, sometimes with their bare hands. Rescue workers carried people on stretchers to waiting helicopters. First responders used ropes to flip over cars and covered the righted vehicles with white sheets to hide the bodies inside.
Autostrade per l’Italia, the company that runs the highway, said work had been in progress to improve the bridge’s foundations. The bridge was under “constant” monitoring, the company said.
Infrastructure and Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli called the collapse an “enormous tragedy” on Twitter and said he was on his way to Genoa. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was also on his way.
Edoardo Rixi, an undersecretary for the transport ministry, said four people had been pulled alive from the rubble.
The bridge was built in the 1960s and was referred to by locals as “Genoa’s Brooklyn Bridge” because of its resemblance to the span in New York.
It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the collapse. Several government officials said a full assessment will be carried out in the coming days.
Italy has struggled in recent years to keep its infrastructure, both public and private, well-maintained. Last year, a bridge over the highway running along the Adriatic coast collapsed, causing two deaths, and in 2016 a bridge on a busy road north of Milan fell, leaving one dead and five injured.
More than 30 buses in Rome have spontaneously caught fire in the past four years due to a lack of maintenance. Experts also say that Italy’s many earthquakes would be less costly with proper retrofitting.
Italy’s enormous national debt, which is among the highest in the world relative to the size of the economy, has meant that basic maintenance is sometimes put off and new infrastructure projects often get delayed or shelved while the country’s political parties haggle on where funding will come from.
Autostrade per l’Italia is a private company that receives government commissions to run toll roads.
In the wake of the collapse, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who is head of the League, one of the two parties in the ruling government coalition, called on Italy to ignore limits on the country’s debt and yearly deficit imposed by its membership in the European Union so that, he said, more funds could be directed to infrastructure maintenance.
The 5 Star Movement, the League’s partner in the governing coalition, campaigned on improving existing infrastructure rather than investing in a new fast-train line to France, which has been supported by the League.
5 Star has campaigned vigorously against the building of a new freeway in Genoa that would be a potential alternative to the collapsed bridge.
—Donato Paolo Mancini contributed to this article.
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