A bridge collapse in the Italian city Genoa, which happened because of a fatal flaw in its construction, became a reason for killing a large number of people. A section of nearly 260 ft of the 50-year-old Morandi bridge came down around at 11:30 on Tuesday. It was the peak hour when the road was jam-packed with cars and trucks. Cars fell from 150 ft with tonnes of steel and concrete into the river, railroad and an industrial zone below. The weight of the rubble caused the vehicles to flatten, while the passengers were still inside.
Few survivors were also found from the wreckage and were rushed to the hospitals. Photos and media showed firefighters finding survivors, strapping them into stretchers and taking them to the hospitals in emergency helicopters. Some eyewitness said that the bridge was hit by lightening seconds before it collapsed. However, the engineers don’t believe that the lightning had anything to do with the disaster. Agathoklia Giaralis, deputy director of the University of London’s Civil Engineering Structure Research center, said, “‘It couldn’t have been lightning. I don’t see how that would be possible as it’s reinforced concrete and it’s certainly never happened before.”
He said that the bridge was completed in 1967 and there must have been some flaw in its construction since that time. There is also a possibility that the bridge has gone through extensive corrosion in the metallic parts which lead to the accident. He said, “For such a bridge to collapse it has to be something serious that went unnoticed in maintenance and inspections. ‘It’s an old bridge that was difficult to inspect from the start and doesn’t have the redundancies that modern bridges do, so it is likely that one failure could lead to its collapse.” He said that the metal parts of the Morandi bridge like cables are its weakest parts, but the bridge didn’t fail there, this points towards other underlying issues. Giaralis said, “Usually these fail due to corrosion and that a process that takes decades, and it is very unusual that something that can cause total collapse went unnoticed. ‘I would say that most probably something went wrong with the foundation or supporting ground rather than with the pier, the deck, or the cables.”
Dr. Giaralis said that the bridge was fully loaded with cars and there was also wind; this might have triggered the collapse. However, either of these reasons cannot be the underlying cause since these reasons cannot be an issue for a healthy bridge. Several pictures on Google Map have shown that there were various spot repairs done on the bridge and it was under repair since 2016. Dr. Giaralis said that the patches were most likely done to replace spalling concrete and ensuring that reinforcement was covered to avoid long-term corrosion. He said that these patches were not a reason for the collapse. Two years ago engineering experts also warned that it would be cost-effective to knock the bridge down instead of continuing to repair the uneven construction of the existing bridge.
In the early 1990s, the suspension cables along the bridge were replaced, and other reconstruction work was done in 2016. In 2016, Antonio Brencich, associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Genoa said that the maintenance costs of the Morandi bridge were so high that it would be better to build a new bridge instead. He said, “‘Right away the bridge manifested various problems, beyond the construction costs, which went over budget. ‘There are errors in this bridge. Sooner or later it will have to be replaced. I don’t know when.” In December 2016, Genoan newspaper Il Secolo XIX claimed that the maintenance of bridges in the area had lacked in funds because the authorities were allocating more funds to new works. The paper accused the officials in the Liguria region of making only the important restorations when the issues with the bridge became very obvious.
The disaster has shocked the world, but locals feared that the bridge would collapse for years and every time they crossed the vital arterial road, they prayed to cross it safely. A resident of Genoa told BBC, “The state of the bridge always concerned us. Nobody has ever crossed that bridge with a light heart. Everybody has always done it praying that the bridge wouldn’t fall. Today that happened.” There are also rumors that Italian mafia might have their hands behind the collapse of the bridge since their construction companies were involved in maintenance work, including shoring up the foundations. Canada’s Globe and Mail wrote, “Mafia-related companies are known to have infiltrated the cement and reconstruction industries over the decades and prosecutors have accused them of doing shoddy work that cannot withstand high stress.” Franco Roberti, the head of Italy’s anti-mafia directorate said mafia related companies should not be able to participate in earthquake reconstruction work for that reason. He said, “There are risks; it is useless to hide it,’ he told Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper at the time. The risk of infiltration is always high. Post-earthquake reconstruction is a tasty morsel for criminal organizations and business interests.”
Officials have stated that dozens are dead in the collapse. There are reports that a baby is also among the victims. Two people also died in their homes when the bridge falls on their house. Nearly 35 cars and three heavy trucks fell into the valley while they were crossing the bridge. A witness said that he saw the bridge wobbling and being struck by lightning before it crumbled. Pietro, the eyewitness, said, “It was just after 11.30 when we saw lightning strike the bridge and we saw it going down.” Another witness said, “We heard an incredible roar, and first we thought it was thunder very close by. We live about three miles from the bridge, but we heard a crazy bang… We were very scare paralyzed Traffic went completely haywire, and the city was paralysed.” Four people were pulled out alive from the cars found in the rubble of the bridge. The two warehouses below the structure were empty since they were closed for the summer holidays. Footage shows that a green truck had stopped just at the end of the bridge from where the collapse began. The exact cause of the disaster is not yet clear, but the Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said that this shows the state of the country’s infrastructure and a lack of maintenance. He said, “There has not been sufficient maintenance and checks, and safety work for many bridges and viaducts and bridges in Italy constructed, almost all, during the 1960s.” He said that a 20 million Euro bidding process for significant safety work on the bridge was coming up.
The bridge operator said that there was no way to know that the structure will come down. Genoa area director, Stefano Marigliani said, “The collapse was unexpected and unpredictable. The bridge was constantly monitored and supervised well beyond what the law required. There was no reason to consider the bridge dangerous.” Edoardo Rixi said, “It’s not acceptable that such an important bridge… was not built to avoid this kind of collapse.” The CNR civil engineering society is calling for a Marshall Plan to repair or replace thousands of bridges in Italy which has surpassed their lifespan. Italy’s anti-establishment government which took office in June has pledged to increase public investments and lobby the European Commission to have the extra spending. The office of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that he was heading to Genoa in the evening and will remain there on Wednesday. A witness told Sky Italia television he saw many vehicles on the bridge when it collapsed. Some 600ft of the Morandi bridge collapsed over an industrial zone which has raised concerned that the gas pipeline might have been damaged. A witness told the paper, “I walk the Morandi Bridge almost every day. The bridge often oscillates, for trucks, the tails … but this morning I had the feeling, maybe just the suggestion, which this oscillation was much more marked than usual. I walked back to the house on my way back a quarter of an hour before it collapsed.” Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said 200 firefighters were responding to the accident. He said on Twitter, “‘We are following minute by minute the situation for the bridge collapse in Genoa.”
This afternoon French President Emmanuel Macron offered Italy to help them. In French and Italian, Macron wrote on Twitter, “Our thoughts go to the victims, their relatives, and all the Italian people. France stands by Italy in that tragedy and is ready to provide all necessary support.” The disaster occurred on a major highway that connects Italy to France and other vacation resorts. The Tuesday’s incident is the latest in a string of bridge collapses in Italy which is a country prone to damage from seismic activity, but the infrastructure generally is showing the effects of economic stagnation.