Genoa bridge collapse prompts state of emergency

Genoa is under a 12-month state of emergency (AP Photo/Nicola Marfisi) Credit: AP/Press Association Images

A 12-month state of emergency has been declared in Genoa after a bridge collapsed, killing at least 39 people.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said his government will not wait until prosecutors finish investigating the collapse to remove the concession from the main private company that maintains Italy’s highways.

Mr Conte led an emergency cabinet meeting in Genoa a day after the highway bridge collapsed. He called the tragedy “unacceptable in a modern society” and vowed to work so similar events will not happen again.

He said Italy will look for another company to maintain much of the nation’s highway system and will demand “more stringent” rules about maintenance.

Mr Conte said: “we cannot wait for justice” and that “all citizens must travel in safety”.

He also called for the swift removal of the tonnes of debris that fell in Genoa to facilitate rail travel and reduce the danger of floods.

Interior minister Matteo Salvini declined to say how many people might still be buried in the debris where about 1,000 rescue workers are searching for victims.

The collapse occurred at about midday on Tuesday, the eve of Italy’s biggest summer holiday, when traffic was particularly busy on the 51-year-old bridge that links two highways — one leading to France, the other to Milan — from this north-western port city.

Anger is rising as investigators examine how the bridge collapsed Credit: AP

Mr Salvini declined to say how many people are still missing, and added that trying to locate them was particularly difficult, due to the holiday.

He said he hoped the death toll would not rise.

Authorities urged the quick removal of tonnes of debris from a dry river bed so that the rubble does not create a makeshift dam if heavy rains fall in the flood-prone city on the Mediterranean.

An aerial view of the scene in Genoa Credit: Vigili Del Fuoco/AP

Debris must also be cleared from rail tracks, a vital link especially now that Genoa is largely cut in half by the loss of such a key artery, Mr Conte said.

Authorities worried about the stability of remaining large sections of the bridge, prompting a wider evacuation order and forcing about 630 people from nearby apartments. Firefighters went inside some of the vacated apartments briefly to retrieve documents and, in at least one home, pet cats.

Building a new bridge could require demolishing the evacuated buildings, said transportation and infrastructure minister Danilo Toninelli.

After leading an emergency cabinet meeting in Genoa, Mr Conte said there were 39 confirmed dead and 16 injured, including nine in a serious condition. Three children were among those killed, Mr Salvini said.

The dead included four French citizens travelling to a music festival and two Albanians.