Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageFury clouds funeral plans for Italy bridge victims

By Remi BANET (AFP)     Aug 16, 2018 in World

Grieving relatives wept over coffins of dozens of victims of Genoa's bridge collapse Friday as controversy clouded a planned state funeral, while rescuers pressed on with their formidable search for those missing in the rubble.

Fury is growing over the shock collapse of the Morandi bridge, a decades-old viaduct that crumbled in a storm on Tuesday killing at least 38 people, with Italian media reporting that some outraged families would shun Saturday's official commemorations.

Italy's government has blamed the operator of the viaduct for the tragedy and threatened to strip the firm of its contracts, while the country's creaking infrastructure has come under scrutiny.

High above the frantic rescue effort  the engine of a green truck perched at the edge of the remaini...
High above the frantic rescue effort, the engine of a green truck perched at the edge of the remaining strand of bridge continues to whir
Piero CRUCIATTI, AFP

Authorities are planning a state funeral service and mass for the dead on Saturday at a hall in Genoa, coinciding with a day of mourning.

Relatives who gathered at the hall on Friday embraced and prayed over lines of coffins, many adorned with flowers and photographs of the dead.

But according to La Stampa newspaper, the families of 17 victims have refused to take part, while a further seven have yet to decide whether they will attend, as some relatives opt to hold private ceremonies.

"It is the state who has provoked this, by not showing their faces: the parade of politicians was shameful," said Nunzia, the mother of one of four young Italians from Naples who died as they set off on holiday.

The collapse prompted the government to announce a year-long state of emergency in the region and da...
The collapse prompted the government to announce a year-long state of emergency in the region and day of mourning Saturday
Piero CRUCIATTI, AFP

And the father of another took to social media to vent his anger.

"My son will not become a number in the catalogue of deaths caused by Italian failures," said the grieving father, Roberto.

"We do not want a farce of a funeral but a ceremony at home."

- 10-20 people still missing -

Despite dwindling expectations of finding survivors, rescue workers said they had not given up hope as they pressed on with the dangerous operation to search through the unstable mountains of debris.

"Is there anyone there? Is there anyone there?" one firefighter shouted into a cavity dug out of the piles of concrete and twisted metal, in a video published by the emergency services.

Relatives who gathered at the hall on Friday embraced and prayed over lines of coffins  many with fl...
Relatives who gathered at the hall on Friday embraced and prayed over lines of coffins, many with flowers and photograps of the dead laid on top
MARCO BERTORELLO, AFP

Between 10 and 20 people still missing, according to Genoa's chief prosecutor.

Hundreds of rescuers are using cranes and bulldozers to cut up and remove the biggest slabs of fallen bridge, which slammed down onto railway tracks along with dozens of vehicles.

"We are trying to find pockets in the rubble where people could be -- alive or not," fire official Emanuele Gissi told AFP.

- Grief and anger -

The populist government has accused infrastructure giant Autostrade per L'Italia of failing to invest in sufficient maintenance and said it would seek to revoke its lucrative contracts.

The work of emergency services
The work of emergency services
Jean Michel CORNU, AFP

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini demanded that the company offer up to 500 million euros ($570 million) to help families and local government deal with the aftermath of the disaster.

"There needs to be an immediate, concrete and tangible signal for these families: they should put their hands on their hearts and in their wallets," he said Thursday.

The dead also include children, one as young as eight, and three Chileans and four French nationals. Fifteen people were injured, five of whom are in serious condition.

The French nationals, all in their 20s, had travelled to Italy to go to a music festival, and other victims included a family setting off on holiday and a couple returning from their California honeymoon.

One Italian mother said she was out shopping when a huge chunk of concrete from the bridge hit the store she was in.

The chance of finding survivors at this stage was slim and the unstable mountains of debris made the...
The chance of finding survivors at this stage was slim and the unstable mountains of debris made the search operation dangerous
MARCO BERTORELLO, AFP

"I was buried up to my chest, and my daughter was completely buried. I fainted several times, Marina Guagliata, 58, told Italian media from her hospital bed.

More than 600 people were evacuated from around a dozen apartments beneath the remaining shard of bridge.

On Thursday evening the first residents of some buildings in the affected area were allowed to return home, though others are too badly damaged to save.

- Infrastructure alarm -

Genoa's Morandi viaduct was completed in 1967 and has been riddled with structural problems for...
Genoa's Morandi viaduct was completed in 1967 and has been riddled with structural problems for decades
Handout, STUDIO LEONI/AFP

The Morandi viaduct dates from the 1960s and has been riddled with structural problems for decades, leading to expensive maintenance and severe criticism from engineering experts.

Its collapse prompted fears over ageing infrastructure across the world.

Italy has announced a year-long state of emergency in the region.

Autostrade, which operates and maintains nearly half of Italy's motorways, estimates it will take five months to rebuild the bridge.

It denies scrimping on motorway maintenance, saying it has invested over one billion euros a year in "safety, maintenance and strengthening of the network" since 2012.

Atlantia, the holding company of Autostrade, has warned that the government would have to refund the value of the contract, which runs until at least 2038.

The disaster is the latest in a string of bridge collapses in Italy, where infrastructure generally is showing the effects of a faltering economy.

Senior government figures have also lashed out at austerity measures imposed by the European Union, saying they restrict investment.

But the European Commission said it had given Rome billions of euros to fix infrastructure.

burs/klm/hmw

More about Italy, Accident
More news from