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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Little hope of more survivors in Genoa bridge collapse as 39 confirmed dead

Former footballer survives 80-metre fall as rescuers lose hope of finding more survivors, Federica Marsi reports from the scene

Rescue teams at work in the area of the collapsed bridge EPA
Rescue teams at work in the area of the collapsed bridge EPA

Rescuers on the site of the collapsed motorway bridge that killed 39 people in Genoa signalled on Wednesday there was little hope of finding more survivors.

Over 400 firefighters have been deployed on the scene since the 100-metre-high motorway crumbled into rubble just before noon on Tuesday, trowing more than 30 vehicles into the void.

The government declared a state of emergency amid anger and shock the bridge was able to give way.

As of Wednesday, 16 people have been extracted from the debris. After a full day of work in scorching temperatures, Alessandro Bussolino, regional coordinator for the Red Cross’ special rescue services, said his team had found “only bodies.”

“The dynamic of the bridge’s collapse does leave much hope,” Mr Bussolino told The National. The rescue of a dog, which was found alive but later died of his wounds, briefly lit a glimmer of hope in Bussolino’s day. As time passes and the layers of the collapsed bridge are peeled away, finding more survivors seems increasingly like a miracle.

Firefighters, assisted by the Urban Search and Rescue team (USAR) specialized in the location and extrication of victims trapped under structural collapse, must also periodically monitor the structure, which might risk falling on them.

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The Civil Protection evacuated over 600 people from their homes in the surrounding areas. “Some of them have found shelter with friends and family, others are being hosted in public spaces such as a sports centre,” Pierfrancesco Demilito, local coordinator for the Civil Protection, told The National.

Looking onto the site of the collapse, a number of residents watch the unfolding rescue operations in disbelief.

Edmondo Iannuzzi, a 59-year-old health worker, used to live in one of the buildings overlooking the Morandi bridge, also known as Genoa’s “Brooklyn Bridge” for its architectural resemblance to the New York’s iconic structure. The site of the collapse is a view he still cannot believe.

“I grew up looking at this bridge, and now it’s gone,” Iannuzzi said in disbelief.

The bridge, designed by the engineer Riccardo Morandi, was built between 1963 and 1967 by the Italian Society for Water Pipelines. Renovations were ongoing and it is currently not clear what caused the collapse.

Taxi driver Guido Zavoli, 52, said he was on the motorway half an hour before it collapsed, but that other colleagues had even closer calls. “We all feel blessed not to have been on it at that time,” Zavoli told The National.

On an average day, the taxi driver said he crossed the bridge around 10 times to collect tourists from the port and take them to the airport. The motorway was also the main artery towards France and Italy’s northern Piemonte region.

“Traffic will be crazy once the holidays are over,” Zavoli said, pointing out that the only remaining road connecting the eastern and western parts of Genoa is the one that bypasses the city.

At present, a number of trucks and cars are still on the extremities of the collapsed bridge, a few inches from the edge of the abyss. A truck belonging to the Basko supermarket chain is still a stone throw away from the point in which the bridge broke in half.

The man, a 37-year-old Italian who is married with children, was doing his daily delivery rounds when the structure collapsed in front of his eyes. The unnamed driver is said to still undergoing treatment for shock.

A former football player, Davide Caopello, 36, was unscathed after an 80-metre fall. He was caught in between his vehicle and the rubble and was able to leave the car without aid.

Others have not been as lucky. The 39 victims include three children, aged 8, 12, 13.

Across the city residents are numbed by the sudden tragedy and few want to engage in speculation about the reasons behind the collapse. “The tragedy could have been even worse,” Mr Bussolino, of the Red Cross, said. The bridge fell a few meters from private homes and close to an industrial compound. “Had it collapsed a bit further, it would have been a carnage. In the end, we were lucky.”