CBS News reported Tuesday that a violent storm caused a motorway bridge to collapse in Genoa, Italy, killing at least 22 people and injuring eight others. The death toll is expected to rise as more people are discovered and rescued from the disastrous collapse.
Called the Morandi Bridge, the half-century-old thoroughfare connects northwestern Italy to the southern coast of France. According to one of the responding firefighters, Amalia Tedeschi, around 20 cars and trucks were present on the bridge during the collapse. So far, two victims were pulled out of the rubble and have since been transported to the nearest hospital via helicopter.
Both French and Italian broadcasting agencies have reported that only a section of the Morandi Bridge collapsed, measuring around 200 yards, which plummeted nearly 300 feet into an industrial zone below. Local officials reportedly told ANSA that they believed the bridge collapsed due to structural damage but failed to provide any further details or explanation. Prior to the collapse, however, maintenance was being performed on the bridge. Traffic on the bridge was apparently heavier than usual due to Italy’s upcoming holiday on Wednesday, Ferragosto, a Catholic holiday that celebrates both the Assumption of Mary and the start of summer vacation.
Shortly after the collapse, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini tweeted, “We are following minute by minute the situation of the bridge collapse in Genoa,” adding that around 200 firefighters had responded to the scene of the accident.
Deputy Transport Minister Edoardo Rixi called the collapse “the biggest tragedy involving a bridge of this importance in Europe in the last decades.”
“It’s not acceptable that such an important bridge was not built to avoid this kind of collapse,” Rixi added.
One eyewitness, Andrea Rescigno, told the Genoa television station Primocanale, “I saw death,” noting more specifically that he “saw cars and trucks plunging into the void.”
“My wife screamed at me to stop,” Rescigno added. “If not for that, we’d be dead now.”
French President Emmanuel Macron offered up his support and condolences to Italy, tweeting, “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 bridge’s collapse comes only a week after another tragic traffic accident occurred in Bologna, in which an oil tanking collided with a trunk and exploded on impact, killing one person and injuring at least a dozen others.