More bodies discovered as Italy mourns bridge victims

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More bodies discovered as Italy mourns bridge victims

Death toll up to 43 as families snub state funeral


Mourners gather for the funeral service (Luca Zennaro/Ansa/AP)
Mourners gather for the funeral service (Luca Zennaro/Ansa/AP)

More than half of the families of the victims of Genoa’s bridge collapse refused to take part in yesterday’s state funeral, according to Italian media.

The death toll from Tuesday’s collapse rose to 43 yesterday after rescue workers found the bodies of four more victims in the rubble and a Romanian truck driver who suffered severe head and chest injuries in the bridge collapse died in hospital.

Firefighters also found the remains of a family of three, including a nine-year-old child, who had been traveling for a holiday.

Only family of 18 of the victims’ families attended the state ceremony. The unnamed father of one victim said his son “will not become a number in the catalogue of deaths caused by Italian failures. We do not want a farce of a funeral but a ceremony at home.”

Italian newspaper La Stampa said many relatives had decided to snub the funeral and mass, believing the government bore some responsibility for the tragedy.

Finding the cause of the bridge’s collapse during a driving rainstorm might take weeks or months. But Genoa prosecutors say they are focusing their investigation into possible criminal blame on design flaws or inadequate maintenance on the bridge, which was completed in 1967.

Anger and sadness had earlier erupted at the funeral on Friday of four men in their 20s, all friends from a Naples seaside suburb, whose lives were lost as they drove over the bridge heading for a holiday in Spain.

The cardinal of Naples was merciless in his condemnation of negligence by Italian officials. “You can’t, you mustn’t die for negligence! For carelessness! For irresponsibility! For superficiality!” Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe said.

“My boy and the others suffered murder,” said Roberto Battiloro, whose 29-year-old son, a videographer, was one of the four friends who died. “They died an absurd, blameless death – just for going on holiday.”

His voice shaking with anger, Mr Battiloro said his son was the “victim of a cruel fate, but also of whoever didn’t think that on that bridge could be the children of those who are despairing today”.

Other private funerals were held in Piedmont and elsewhere in Italy.

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Survivors were shocked at how they escaped with their lives. Davide Capello (33), a firefighter and football player, was driving alone on the bridge when his VW Tiguan and the road it was on plunged to the ground. He immediately understood that the structure was collapsing, watching in shock as a car in front of him “disappeared in darkness”.

“It came down, everything, the world came down,” he said, adding that he managed to walk away physically unharmed but psychologically traumatised.

His car plunged nose first, then stopped with a crash, airbags going off all around him. He said he saw only grey as concrete dust covered the windows.

Mr Capello used the touchscreen phone in his car to call colleagues at the Savona dispatch centre, who sent help.

He then called his girlfriend and his father, a retired firefighter, who told him to get out of the car immediately for fear that something heavy would fall on top of it.

Since neither the car’s windows nor its doors would budge, he climbed out through a hole in the rear of the car.

Outside, he said, “there was an unreal silence” – destroyed vehicles and piles of broken concrete, but no signs of life, no cries for help. Rescue workers then helped him climb down from the rubble.

At the state funeral in Genoa, players from the city’s two soccer teams – Genoa and Sampdoria – sat among the crowd, having refused to play matches this weekend in a sign of respect. Relatives of the dead stood beside the coffins, adorned with white and yellow roses, some with their hands on the caskets.

Italy’s head of state, President Sergio Mattarella, and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also attended the ceremony.

A Genoa court will try to establish exactly why the 51 year-old bridge collapsed, but experts said problems with concrete-encased cable stays were a possible cause.

The disaster has dragged toll-road operator Autostrade into a political storm. The firm manages the motorway linking Genoa to France.

This weekend Italy’s populist government launched a formal procedure aimed at revoking concessions held by Autostrade to run toll roads.

“Evidently someone did not do their job well in terms of maintenance. The concessionaire has faults that appear very grave,” said the transport minister, adding that it was up to investigators to establish responsibility.

Autostrade CEO Giovanni Castellucci yesterday voiced condolences for the victims. He said that though the cause of the collapse hasn’t been determined “we apologise” since “perceptions count”.

Castellucci added that his firm has a plan to demolish what’s left of the largely concrete 51-year-old Morandi Bridge and build a “less imposing” steel one in eight months. He also said that Autostrade has set aside €500m of investment for the port city to help it recover.

Italy’s deputy premier quickly spurned both the offer of help and the apology. “Let’s be very clear, the state won’t take charity from Autostrade,”

©Reuters

Some families cited the need to bid farewell in private while others blamed the heavy loss of life on those responsible for the bridge’s safety.

Sunday Independent

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