At Least 20 People Killed As Span Of Busy Highway Bridge Collapses In Italy | WBEZ
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At Least 20 People Killed As Span Of Busy Highway Bridge Collapses In Italy

A long section of the towering Ponte Morandi bridge completely collapsed in Genoa, Italy, on Tuesday, sending cars and trucks that had been driving on the A10 highway crashing down below.

At least 22 people died in the collapse, says Italy's ANSA news agency, which cites Infrastructure Deput Minister Edoardo Rixi — who also warned that the figure will likely go up. Four people have been pulled from the rubble alive.

About a dozen vehicles were likely on the bridge when it collapsed, according to ANSA. It reports, "Both carriageways have crashed to the ground for about one hundred meters [328 feet]."

Italian State Police released a video shot by a witness, showing the massive pillar crumbling as it falls over. The man yells in disbelief as he watches the bridge continue to collapse.

The disaster struck around noon, when one of the bridge's central pillars collapsed during a violent rainstorm. A witness told ANSA that lightning had struck the bridge before the collapse.

"The Morandi bridge gave way over a river bed and railway tracks in a densely inhabited area," NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports. "The bridge is a viaduct that runs over shopping centers, factories, some homes, the Genoa-Milan railway line and the Polcevera River."

Rescue and emergency workers are now going through piles of concrete, steel cables and other debris.

The national firefighter corps, Vigili del Fuoco, says it has more than 200 workers searching the area beneath the collapsed bridge. They're pulling concrete away and using saws to cut through a tangle of cables and wires, hoping to find pockets within the wreckage that may have helped people survive the calamity.

The bridge was built in the late 1960s, at a length of more than 3,600-feet. It had recently been the subject of renovation and repair efforts. Italian roadway company Autostrade says the most recent work included consolidating the viaduct's base — a project that included installing a bridge crane.

Autostrade says an in-depth analysis will be carried out to determine what caused the collapse, once the site is safe to access. The bridge's total length was more than 3,600 feet.

The fire corps posted an image taken from below the collapsed span, showing a truck stopped just feet from where the bridge trails off into the open air. The agency says search crews are using dogs to help find people in the rubble below.

ANSA says that at least part of the bridge span fell onto a warehouse.

This is a breaking news story. As often happens in situations like these, some information reported early may turn out to be inaccurate. We'll move quickly to correct the record and we'll only point to the best information we have at the time.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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