Italy declares state of emergency after Genoa bridge collapse

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has declared a 12-month state of emergency in the Liguria region as the country struggles to come to terms with the catastrophic collapse of the Morandi motorway bridge in Genoa.

He said the government would make an initial €5m ($5.7m) available from central funds to the north-western region, in response to a request from the regional government after the disaster on 14 August, which left 39 people dead and 16 injured, nine seriously.

Between 10 and 20 people may still be missing, Genoa Chief Prosecutor Francesco Cozzi said today, according to Italian news agency, Ansa.

But rescuers have said there is little hope of finding more survivors in the rubble of the 200m span that was carrying dozens of vehicles when it gave way.

The tragedy occurred on the eve of the "Ferragosto" August holiday, when many Italians head for the coast.

Among the victims was a young family of three, travelling to Sardinia with their eight-year-old son, their car packed with beach toys.

More than 400 people have been evacuated from the area, reports the BBC.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (Presidenza della Repubblica/Creative Commons)

Residents of housing blocks under one pillar had been ready to reoccupy their homes, but officials said the pillar was cracking and that their homes were still at risk.

Conte also announced that a national day of mourning would take place "to coincide with the funerals of the victims", reports the BBC.

"These are unacceptable tragedies that should not happen in a modern society," he said. "This government will do everything to prevent such tragedies from happening again."

Italy’s Interior Minister and Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini, meanwhile, blamed the European Union (EU) for the tragedy.

Funds that would be spent on health and safety "are not allowed to be billed according to strict … rules imposed by Europe", the anti-EU politician told local broadcaster Radio24, Ansa reported. "You always have to ask for permission to spend money," he added, without citing any particular EU restrictions.

Today, Labour and Industry Minister and Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio reiterated that the government intends to strip the bridge’s owner, Italy’s largest motorways concessionaire, Autostrade per l’Italia, of its concession.

Amid anger and disbelief that such a vital structure could collapse without warning, senior politicians have attacked Autostrade for its response to the tragedy.

Image: The Morandi bridge in Genoa after the collapse on 14 August 2018 (Fotoclipge/Dreamstime)

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