Government wants to revoke operator’s contract after Genoa bridge collapse

The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa Italy

Genoa's Morandi motorway bridge, a 200-metre portion of which collapsed yesterday killing dozens of people, has been riddled with structural problems since its construction in the 1960s, which has led to expensive maintenance and severe criticism from engineering experts.

At least 22 people have been killed on Tuesday after a giant motorway bridge collapsed in the Italian city of Genoa, with more feared dead in what one official described as an "immense tragedy".

"The latest official number is 35 but we can't rule out it could rise further", a spokesperson for the police in Genoa said.

Other images showed a green truck that had stopped just metres short of the gaping hole in the bridge.

The collapse in Genoa occurred during a torrential rainstorm and left slabs of gray concrete and twisted strands of iron blanketing railroad tracks, buildings and a river bed filled with weeds and marsh grass. "We need to remove all of the rubble to ascertain that all of the people have been reached", he said.

Within hours of the disaster, the anti-establishment government that took office in June said the collapse showed Italy needed to spend more on its dilapidated infrastructure, ignoring European Union budget constraints if necessary.

"We should ask ourselves whether respecting these limits is more important than the safety of Italian citizens", he said. "Obviously for me, it is not", said Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, head of the right-wing League, part of the ruling coalition.

Fellow deputy premier Luigi Di Maio, who is expected in Genoa by 1100 (0900 GMT), said the tragedy "could have been avoided", adding that those responsible for the disaster had a "name and surname".

"Italians have the right to modern and efficient infrastructure that accompanies them safely through their everyday lives", Mattarella said in a statement. One truck was shown just metres away from the broken end of what locals called their "Brooklyn Bridge".

Associate professor in structural mechanics at the University of Southampton in the UK, Mehdi Kashani, argued the combination of maintenance issues and pressure from "dynamic loads", including traffic and wind, could have resulted in "fatigue damage in bridge components".

"There has not been sufficient maintenance and checks, and safety work for many bridges and viaducts and bridges in Italy constructed - nearly all - during the 1960s", he said.

Some 300 firefighters were working in the wreckage, using sniffer dogs to try to locate survivors, along with 400 police. "We can't live with infrastructures built in the 1950s and 1960s".

Danilo Toninelli, the transport minister, said on Wednesday that the top level of Autostrade per l'Italia "must step down first of all".

"The collapse was unexpected and unpredictable". But Stefano Marigliani, the motorway operator Autostrade's official responsible for the Genoa area, told Reuters the bridge was "constantly monitored and supervised well beyond what the law required".

He said there was "no reason to consider the bridge was unsafe".

Rescuers searched overnight for survivors through tons of concrete and steel under the shattered structure of the Morandi Bridge.

A witness told Sky Italia television he saw "eight or nine " vehicles on the bridge when it collapsed in what he said was an "apocalyptic scene".

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