A highway bridge collapsed Tuesday in the northern Italian city of Genoa during a violent storm, killing at least 22 people when their vehicles plummeted almost 300 feet below, according to reports.
A wide section of the Morandi Bridge on the A10 autostrada – or motorway – fell in an industrial section of the port city, the capital of the Liguria region, Sky TG24 reported.
Officials feared that more bodies could be found in the rubble strewn throughout the vast viaduct under the overpass, which horrifying photographs show is missing a huge chunk, the daily newspaper Secolo XIX reported.
The Italian news agency ANSA reported that five people are in serious condition.
Fire official Amalia Tedeschi told the RAI television network that about 20 vehicles, including cars and trucks, had been involved in the collapse.
Two motorists were rescued alive, said Tedeschi, who estimated the section of bridge missing as about 260 feet in length, though earlier reports put the number at more than 650.
Canines were sent to the scene to sniff the rubble for victims. Heavy equipment also was being moved in to lift tons of twisted steel and concrete from the decimated bridge.
“I saw people running towards me, barefoot and terrified,” bus driver Alberto Lercari told Corriere della Sera, another Italian daily. “I heard a roar. People ran away coming towards me. It was horrible.”
ANSA said authorities suspected that a structural weakness had caused the collapse, but there was no immediate explanation by officials for why they might have thought that.
Italy’s transport minister, Danilo Toninelli, called the collapse “an enormous tragedy.”
The highway affected connects Italy to France, and northern cities like Milan to the beaches of Liguria.
The Morandi Bridge is a main thoroughfare connecting the A10, which goes toward France, and the A7, which continues north toward Milan.
Inaugurated in 1967, it is 295 feet high and just over 0.6 miles long, with the longest section between supports measuring over 650 feet.
The tragedy struck on the eve of a major Italian summer holiday on Wednesday called Ferragosto, which means traffic was heavier than usual as Italians traveled to beaches or mountains.
The collapse also comes eight days after another major accident on an Italian highway, one near the northern city of Bologna, where a tanker truck carrying gas exploded after rear-ending a stopped truck and getting hit from behind itself.
The accident killed one person, injured dozens and blew apart a section of a raised eight-lane highway.
With Post wires
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