Death toll climbs following Italian bridge collapse

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Autostrade, a unit of Atlantia, said work to shore up its foundation was being carried out at the time of the collapse.

A bridge on the main highway linking Italy with France collapsed in the Italian port city of Genoa during a sudden, violent storm, sending vehicles plunging almost 300 feet into a heap of rubble below.

The Italian government, governed by a coalition of the Five Star Movement and Lega Nord, has opened an investigation to establish the cause of the collapse, which occurred during a period of torrential rain.

A truck is blocked at the end of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018.

Engineering experts, noting that the bridge was 51 years old, said corrosion and decades of wear-and-tear from weather could have been factors in its collapse. "Autostrade had to maintain it but didn't". "Those who were supposed to do the maintenance work did not do it properly".

Toninelli earlier said he had begun a process to strip Autostrade of its concession and he demanded top Autostrade managers resign.

"I have given mandate to my ministry to start all proceedings to apply the agreement, that is to revoke the concession from these companies and seek significant sanctions", he said. But Stefano Marigliani, the motorway operator Autostrade's official responsible for the Genoa area, told Reuters the bridge was "constantly monitored and supervised well beyond what the law required". That prompted authorities to widen their evacuation to include some 630 people living near the highway bridge that was carved in two by the collapse of its midsection during a violent storm.

Speaking about the European Union budget deficit limit, which set a maximum ceiling of three percent of a country's GDP, he said: "If external constraints prevent us from spending to have safe roads and schools, then it really calls into question whether it makes sense to follow these rules".

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The aging bridge, designed by the renowned Italian engineer Riccardo Morandi, was fraught with "structural doubts".

In its design, Morandi used a patented prestressed reinforced concrete technology, which later proved problematic.

"The causes of the collapse will be the subject of an in-depth analysis as soon as it is possible to gain safe access to the site", a company statement said.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said the homes would have to be pulled down. He called the tragedy "unacceptable in a modern society" and vowed to work so similar events won't happen again.

Toninelli echoed these concerns, saying that many structures in Italy suffer from insufficient safety checks.

Colin Caprani, senior lecturer in structural engineering at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, said bridges "are not set-and-forget pieces of infrastructure", arguing that as the structures age, collapses like the Morandi bridge are likely to become more common occurrences. It called for an ambitious comprehensive plan to fix or replace tens of thousands of Italian bridges and viaducts built in the 1950s and 1960s, during the Italian economy's rapid growth as the nation surged back after the damage of World War II.

Updating and reinforcing the bridges, CNR said, the Telegraph reported, would in many cases be more expensive than demolishing them and building new structures from scratch.

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