A bridge on the main highway running down the Italian Mediterranean coast in the major port city of Genoa collapsed, and a high-ranking government official said at least 22 people died with others trapped in the rubble.
A police video showed the viaduct completely cut in two in a heavy rainfall. A post on Twitter from the Transport Ministry said traffic was interrupted in both directions on the A10 highway, with the incident happening near the turnoffs for the freeway to Milan and the Genoa airport. The heavily traveled highway is both a major route from northern to central Italy, and a bypass between Genoese neighborhoods.
At least 22 people died in the disaster and the toll “is set to rise,” Transportation and Infrastructure Deputy Minister Edoardo Rixi said in an interview with Sky TG24 on Tuesday afternoon.
The collapse amounts to a major blow to both maritime and land transport from and to Genoa with negative consequences for the Italian economy as whole, Rixi said.
RAI TV said rescue workers pulled two people out of the rubble alive, and numerous cars were crushed amid the debris. News agency Ansa also reported that witnesses said they’d seen lightning hit the bridge.
Shares of Atlantia, which runs the stretch of highway, fell almost 11 percent in Milan, the company’s biggest intraday drop since 2008.
Autostrade per l’Italia, the Atlantia unit that manages 3,000 kilometers of highway in Italy, said work had been underway to consolidate the viaduct, which was built in the 1960s. It said it would carry out an investigation into the causes of the collapse. The Benetton family is the biggest investor in Atlantia, which also manages highways in Brazil, Chile, India, and Brazil, and airports in Italy and France. Atlantia jointly controls Spanish toll-road operator Abertis Infraestructuras in partnership with Actividades de Construccion y Servicios.
Atlantia Chief Executive Officer Giovanni Castellucci said the company had not received any specific reports or alerts regarding the bridge’s solidity. Speaking to state-owned radio network RAI, he also said that there are “absolutely no” issues regarding the maintenance of the highway network across the country.
The Genoa incident follows by just one week a massive accident on another Atlantia-managed Italian highway. On Aug. 6 a tanker truck carrying a highly flammable gas exploded after rear-ending a stopped truck on a crowded highway near the northern Italian city of Bologna.
Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said in a post on Twitter that he was on his way to Genoa. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s office said he was heading to the site in the afternoon. Italy’s national civil protection agency said it’s holding an emergency meeting Tuesday afternoon.
(c) 2018, Bloomberg · Gregory Viscusi, Lorenzo Totaro