At least 22 people are known to have died today near the Italian city of Genoa when a motorway bridge traversing a river valley collapsed, sending vehicles plummeting some 45m to the ground.
The Morandi Bridge, built in the 1960s, carried the A10 toll motorway across the span of the Polcevera river.
Restructuring work was done in 2016. According to Reuters, work was underway to shore up the bridge’s foundations at the time of its collapse.
The section that gave way at approximately 11.30am local time was approximately 200m in length, reports the BBC, and cars and trucks were on it when it fell.
Police have linked the disaster to what they called a violent rainstorm. One witness described seeing lightening strike the bridge before the collapse.
View from the edge of the sheared span (Municipality of Genoa, via Twitter)
Sections landed on railway tracks but official photographs show buildings, appearing to be residential blocks, also hit by debris.
A warehouse has been destroyed, the BBC reports.
Just after 16.00 local time the death toll rose to 22 from an initial count of 11, Italian deputy transport minister Edoardo Rixi said in a television interview, the BBC reports.
According to the BBC, local emergency officials have been quoted as saying "dozens" have died.
Closer to the edge, the wrecked span appears to have fallen on homes (State Police of Italy via Twitter)
Italian Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said it was likely to be "an immense tragedy".
"It was just after 11:30 when we saw lightning strike the bridge," eyewitness Pietro M all’Asa was quoted as saying by Italy’s Ansa news agency, reports the BBC. "And we saw the bridge going down."
Traffic was queuing on the bridge at the time, an eyewitness told Italian public television.
A Genoa resident described a sound like thunder when the bridge collapsed.
Rescuers now searching for survivors (State Police of Italy via Twitter)
"We live about five kilometres from the bridge, but we heard a big bang. At first, we thought it was thunder very close to us," the resident told the Ansa news agency, reports the BBC.
"When we heard an incredible roar we were scared, very scared."
French President Emmanuel Macron today tweeted: "France is on the side of Italy in this tragedy and stands ready to provide all the necessary support".
- Edited 16 August 2018 to correct the height of the deck, and to clarify the length of the span that collapsed
Top Image: All that remains of the Morandi Bridge, In Genoa, Italy, after its collapse on 14 August 2018 (State Police of Italy via Twitter)