Second night of rescue efforts after deadly Italy bridge collapse

Italy’s government blamed the firm that operated the collapsed Genoa bridge for the disaster in which at least 39 people died. (AFP)
Updated 16 August 2018
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Second night of rescue efforts after deadly Italy bridge collapse

  • Italy’s government has blamed the firm that operated the collapsed bridge for the disaster
  • The Morandi viaduct, completed in 1967, spans dozens of railway lines

GENOA, Italy: Rescue workers toiled through a second night Thursday in a desperate bid to find survivors in the rubble of a Genoa bridge which caved in during a heavy rainstorm, killing at least 39 people and injuring 16 more.
A vast span of the Morandi bridge collapsed in the northern port city on Tuesday, sending about 35 cars and several trucks plunging 45 meters (150 feet) onto railway tracks below.
Italy’s government has blamed the firm that operated the collapsed bridge for the disaster and announced a state of emergency in the region.
Children aged eight, 12 and 13 were among the dead, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said, adding that more people were still missing. Sixteen people were injured.
Three Chileans, who live in Italy, and four French nationals were also killed.
The tragedy has focused anger on the structural problems that have dogged the decades old Morandi bridge and the private sector firm Autostrade per l’Italia, which is currently in charge of operating and maintaining swathes of the country’s motorways.
Deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio said the tragedy “could have been avoided.”
“Autostrade should have done maintenance and didn’t do it,” he alleged.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also confirmed that his government would push to revoke the company’s contract for the A10 motorway, which includes the bridge, while Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said the company should be fined up to €150 million ($170 million).
The firm, which said the bridge had been undergoing maintenance work, however, released a statement refuting accusations of underfunding of motorway infrastructure.
“In the last five years (2012-2017) the company’s investment in the security, maintenance and strengthening of the network has been over one billion euros a year,” it said.
Survivors recounted the heart-stopping moment when the bridge buckled, tossing vehicles and hunks of concrete into the abyss.
Davide Capello, a former goalkeeper for Italian Serie A club Cagliari, plunged with his car but was unscathed.
“I was driving along the bridge, and at a certain point I saw the road in front of me collapse, and I went down with the car,” he told TV news channel Sky TG24.
As cars and trucks tumbled off the bridge, Afifi Idriss, 39, a Moroccan truck driver, just managed to stop in time.
“I saw the green lorry in front of me stop and then reverse so I stopped too, locked the truck and ran,” he said.
While around a dozen apartment blocks that stand in the shadow of the viaduct were largely spared the impact of the falling concrete, the Liguria regional government said some 634 people had been evacuated.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said the homes would have to be pulled down.
The incident is the latest in a string of bridge collapses in Italy, a country prone to damage from seismic activity but where infrastructure generally is showing the effects of a faltering economy.
The Morandi viaduct, completed in 1967, spans dozens of railway lines.
The bridge has been riddled with structural problems since its construction, which has led to expensive maintenance and severe criticism from engineering experts.
On Tuesday engineering website “Ingegneri.info” called it “a tragedy waiting to happen.”
Conte also announced after a cabinet meeting Wednesday that a national day of mourning was being planned. Media reports said it would be held on Saturday to coincide with some of the funerals.
There would also be a 12-month state of emergency in and around Genoa, Conte added, with five million euros of funds going into recovery work.


North Korea faces ‘historic turning point’, says state media ahead of summit

Updated 6 min 16 sec ago
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North Korea faces ‘historic turning point’, says state media ahead of summit

  • Attention has been focused on whether the US team will offer to lift some economic sanctions on North Korea, in return for Pyongyang taking concrete steps toward denuclearisation
  • The Rodong Sinmun commentary called on North Koreans to make greater efforts to boost the country's economy

SEOUL: North Korea is facing a "significant, historic turning point", state media said on Monday, ahead of a highly-anticipated second summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.
The meeting between the two leaders -- which will be the second time the pair have come together following their Singapore summit in June -- is scheduled for Hanoi, Vietnam on February 27-28.
Attention has been focused on whether the US team will offer to lift some economic sanctions on North Korea, in return for Pyongyang taking concrete steps toward denuclearisation.
"It is time for us to tighten our shoe strings and run fast, looking for a higher goal as we face this decisive moment," the Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in an editorial.
"Our country is facing a significant, historic turning point," it added, without explicitly referencing the summit.
Earlier this month, US President Trump tweeted that North Korea will become a "great Economic Powerhouse" under Kim.
"He may surprise some but he won't surprise me, because I have gotten to know him & fully understand how capable he is," said Trump.
The Rodong Sinmun commentary called on North Koreans to make greater efforts to boost the country's economy.
North Korea is rising as a "strong, socialist nation," and one's true act of patriotism begins at one's workplace, the commentary added.
"Each and every product should be made to make our country shine."
North Korea, which holds most of the peninsula's mineral resources, was once wealthier than the South, but decades of mismanagement and the demise of its former paymaster the Soviet Union have left it deeply impoverished.
In 2017 the UN Security Council banned the North's main exports -- coal and other mineral resources, fisheries and textile products -- to cut off its access to hard currency in response to Pyongyang's pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.