Fears grow as 20 people may still be missing after the Morandi Bridge bridge collapse in Genoa

As many as 20 people could still be missing in the rubble of the collapsed Morandi Bridge in Genoa, according to the city’s chief prosecutor.

Searchers have been combing through tonnes of debris since the collapse of the structure on Tuesday which left 39 people confirmed dead.

Genoa chief prosecutor Francesco Cozzi told reporters that “there could be 10 to 20 persons still missing”.

Rescue teams dispatched to the bridge collapse. Credit: AP

Interior minister Matteo Salvini said it has been difficult to come up with an exact number as some of those reported missing by loved ones might actually be holidaymakers who reached their destination and have not contacted family or friends in recent days.

Authorities have announced plans for a state funeral for the victims to be held on Saturday morning in the north-western city, with the day designated one of national mourning.

The ceremony will be presided over by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the Genoa archbishop.

However, more than 400 people, who were forced to evacuate their homes following the collapse of the bridge, now face an anxious wait to find out when they can return.

ITV News has learned that the structural integrity of the bridge has been so badly compromised that authorities are not sure yet if more of it could come tumbling down.

  • ITV News Reporter Ben Chapman enters the bridge exclusion zone:

A day earlier, the Italian cabinet approved a 12-month state of emergency for the area, and Italian premier Giuseppe Conte said his government will not wait until prosecutors finish investigating the collapse to withdraw the concession from the main private company that maintains Italy’s highways, Atlantia.

Survivors of the collapse have described the moment the road fell away beneath them.

Davide Capello said he was driving across the bridge on Tuesday when “I heard a heavy sound, and I saw cars in front of me falling”.

He added: “I saw the road collapse then I fell with them. I thought it was all over for me.”

Some 20 vehicles plunged into a void after a 200-metre section of the Morandi Bridge Credit: AP

But he said he suffered only minor injuries because his car fell between concrete blocks that formed a sort of protection from further damage.

A French woman, identified only as Leonine, said she was travelling across the bridge with her husband and three-year-old son at the time of the collapse.

She said: “We saw the pylon go completely to the right, and we realised what was happening.”

They tried to reverse the car, then “opened our doors, took our son out of his car seat and then left, running until the tunnel”.

  • ITV News Anchor Tom Bradby looks back at the bridge's history

The collapse occurred at about noon on Tuesday, on the eve of Italy’s biggest summer holiday, when traffic was particularly busy on the 51-year-old span that links two major roads – one leading to France, the other to Milan.

A 20 million-euro (£17.8 million) project to upgrade the bridge’s safety had already been approved prior to the collapse, with public bids to be submitted by September.

According to business daily Il Sole, improvement work would have involved two weight-bearing columns that support the bridge – including one that collapsed on Tuesday.

The bridge, considered innovative when it opened in 1967 for its use of concrete around its cables, was long due for an upgrade, especially since it carried more traffic than its designers had envisioned.