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Corrosion, faulty concrete suspected in Genoa, Italy bridge collapse

During a heavy downpour on August 14, a 656 foot section of the the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy collapsed, killing 43 people. The 51-year-old bridge linked two major highways in the city and was well-traveled by the Genoa citizens. Italian officials say that finding the official cause of the collapse could take several weeks, but all fingers seemingly point to design flaws and inadequate maintenance.

A view of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge, in Genoa, Italy, Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018. The unofficial death toll in Tuesday’s collapse rose to 43 Saturday. (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)

Italian engineering experts have heavy suspicions that corrosion to the bridge’s steel cables contributed to the collapse, saying that it decreased the bridge’s overall strength by 20%. A platform weighing several tons was connected to the underside of the bridge, which could have also caused the bridge stress. Another potential factor was the use of concrete, which deteriorates quickly.

Years ago, experts warned of deterioration and the dangers of continued use of the Morandi Bridge. Other Italian bridges also showed signed of stress, and a series have collapsed in previous years. Additionally, Antonio Brencich, an engineering professor at the University of Genoa, declared that “the Morandi Bridge is a failure of engineering” due to its construction of pre-stressed concrete rather than steel. He estimated that the cost of constant repairs to the bridge was likely more than the cost to construct a new, safer one.

Both the government and local citizens have cast blame on he company that owned and operated the bridge, Autostrade per l’Italia. The company had warned of decay and possible collapse of the bridge within 10 years in a 2012 report. So far the company has denied responsibility, though it has agreed to participate into an investigation and the government has granted them 15 days to present a defense.  

Autostrade publicly pledged to build a new bridge in just 8 months and has set up millions in funding to be given to the victim’s families, and would also fund the relocation of people that were forced out of their homes due to the collapse.

The Italian government has promised to analyze the state of all national infrastructure, as well as increase its oversight. They have stated that it is the responsibility of the repair companies to produce detailed maintenance plans and, if needed, increase investments for projects.

A solution has been proposed to prevent future collapses. The Minister of Transport and Infrastructure, Danilo Toninello, stated that he supports transferring toll revenue to the government to ensure maintenance and safety of infrastructure, rather than having it feed to the corporations themselves.

Italian officials have made it clear that they want to see change to the country’s infrastructure in the future. “This disaster obliges us to take new initiatives which are much more rigorous than those adopted by previous governments,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a statement.

In his homily for the funeral of four young men killed in the collapse, the archbishop of Naples Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe exclaimed, “You can’t, you mustn’t die for negligence! For carelessness! For irresponsibility! For superficiality!”