Emergency services are rushing to clear the scene of a massive highway bridge collapse in northern Italy. The raised Morandi Bridge highway – which connects Italy and France – was once hailed as an engineering masterpiece. With heavy rains and poor structure support to blame, how could a engineering masterpiece have failed? An Italian engineering professor looks to have predicted this catastrophic disaster two years ago.
Unlike something out of the Final Destination franchise, the Morandi Bridge disaster actually took place. At around 12 p.m. August 4, Italian state police reported that a 650-foot section of the Morandi Bridge had collapsed, sending rubble and at least 35 cars crashing down 45 meters. The bridge stretches over half a mile and dangles 300 feet over the northern town of Genoa, Italy.
Designed by Riccardo Morandi and completed in 1968, the bridge was an engineering masterpiece of its time. However, the popular highway has had its share of problems. During the 1980s-1990s, the Morandi Bridge underwent extensive maintenance.
According to News, maintenance was being conducted on the bridge when the incident occurred. Eyewitnesses captured the moment on camera, saying that heavy rainstorms and a lightning strike were also to blame. This all occurring on the eve of major Italian holiday, Ferragosto.
Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told CNN at least 22 people are dead and 16 are injured. Nine are badly injured. Separately, the office of the governor of the Liguria region said 26 people have died.
The “masterpiece of engineering” was a structure Antonio Brencich eventually knew was going to fail. An engineering professor at the University of Genoa, Brencich spoke on the issue back in July of 2016. He warned about the constantly maintained and uneven structure outweighing the cost.
“The Morandi Bridge is referred to as a masterpiece of engineering. In reality it is a bankruptcy,” he said in an interview with Italian TV channel primocanale.it according to The Chronicle. “That bridge is wrong. Sooner or later it will have to be replaced. I do not know when……There will be a time when maintenance costs will exceed those of reconstruction, and then we will have to proceed with the replacement.”
While the exact cause of the collapse is still under investigation, Prime Minster Conte has praised the hundreds of rescue workers. “It is shocking to see the twisted metal and the bridge collapsed with victims who were extracted,” said Prime Minster Conte to NewsTalkZB. “(It’s a) very bad time with the collapsing of the bridge which was not absolutely unexpected. But we don’t know the reason.
While newspapers have scrutinized the bridge in the past for underfunding, Prime Minster Conte promises change.
“My role as the mayor is to make sure we have the correct infrastructure for the city and make sure that from the government we get the right amount of money in order to be able to set up the new infrastructure as soon as possible.”
Expected to rise is the death toll as a number of people are still missing. Four people have been pulled from the wreckage and transported to hospitals. Genoa officials have declared two days of mourning.