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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Italy buries bridge collapse dead as outrage simmers

The service came as firefighters still searching for five missing people and the death toll rose to 41

A relative touches the coffin during the state funeral of the victims of the Morandi Bridge collapse, at the Genoa Trade Fair and Exhibition Centre in Genoa, Italy August 18, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
A relative touches the coffin during the state funeral of the victims of the Morandi Bridge collapse, at the Genoa Trade Fair and Exhibition Centre in Genoa, Italy August 18, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

A state funeral service was underway Saturday in Italy to commemorate dozens of people killed in Genoa's bridge disaster, as some outraged relatives shunned official ceremonies and rescuers pulled more bodies from the wreckage.

The service, which coincides with a national day of mourning, came as firefighters still searching for five missing people discovered a car with human remains inside.

epa06955536 Victims of the Morandi bridge disaster lie in coffins at the Fiera di Genova exhibition centre prior to the State funeral, in Genoa, Italy, 18 August 2018. The Morandi bridge partially collapsed on 14 August, killing at least 41 people. EPA/LUCA ZENNARO
The state funeral for victims of the Morandi bridge disaster in Genoa, Italy, 18 August 2018. EPA

Local media reported a family of three had been discovered, including a nine-year-old girl, adding to the death toll of 38.

The populist government has blamed the operator of the viaduct for the collapse and threatened to strip the firm of its contracts.

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Thousands of mourners flocked to bid farewell to the victims whose coffins, adorned with flowers and photographs, lined an exhibition hall turned into a makeshift chapel.

"I lost a friend but I came for all the victims," Nunzio Angone told AFP.

Among the coffins was a small white one for the youngest victim, an eight-year-old boy who was killed alongside his parents.

Another two were draped in the Albanian flag featuring a black eagle against a red background.

Applause erupted as firefighters entered the hall ahead of the ceremony.

But more than half of the families of the victims refused to take part, some preferring a more intimate funeral, while others announced a boycott.

"It is the state who has provoked this; let them not show their faces, the parade of politicians is shameful," the press cited the mother of one of four young Italians from Naples who died.

Roberto, father of another of the dead from Naples used social media to vent his anger: "My son will not become a number in the catalogue of deaths caused by Italian failures."

"We do not want a farce of a funeral but a ceremony at home."

Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, who is expected to lead the mass, expressed his respect for those who refused state funerals.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte are due to preside over the state funeral, which local media say will also be attended by senior staff of infrastructure giant Autostrade per L'Italia, the managing company of the highway.

epa06955583 A handout photo made available by the Quirinal Press Office shows Italian President Sergio Mattarella (R) during his visit to the site of the highway-bridge-collapse disaster, before attending the State funeral of the victims, in Genoa, Italy, 18 August 2018. The Morandi bridge partially collapsed on 14 August, killing at least 41 people. EPA/FRANCESCO AMMENDOLA /QUIRINAL PRESS OFFICE / HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
A handout photo shows Italian President Sergio Mattarella visiting the site of the highway-bridge-collapse disaster, EPA

Mourners also included the city's two football squads, Genoa and Sampdoria, who have postponed their weekend matches.

The government has accused Autostrade of failing to invest in sufficient maintenance and said it would seek to revoke its lucrative contracts.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini demanded that the company offer up to 500 million euros ($570 million) to help families and local government deal with the aftermath of the disaster.

The dead also includes children, three Chileans and four French nationals.

The Morandi viaduct dates from the 1960s and has been riddled with structural problems for decades, leading to expensive maintenance and severe criticism from engineering experts.

Its collapse prompted fears over ageing infrastructure across the world.

Italy has announced a year-long state of emergency in the region.

Autostrade, which operates and maintains nearly half of Italy's motorways, estimates it will take five months to rebuild the bridge.

It denies scrimping on motorway maintenance, saying it has invested over 1 billion euro (Dh 4.2 billion) a year in "safety, maintenance and strengthening of the network" since 2012.

Atlantia, the holding company of Autostrade which is 30 per cent owned by iconic fashion brand Benetton, has warned that the government would have to refund the value of the contract, which runs until at least 2038.

Conte said Autostrade "had the duty and obligation to assure the maintenance of this viaduct and the security of all those who travelled on it."

Government officials were set to join a police meeting in Genoa to discuss contingency measures for the city, which has been split in two.