Italy: State of emergency declared in Genoa

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 A 12-month state of emergency has been declared in the Liguria region in response to the motorway bridge collapse in Genoa. The Italian Prime Minister also said that he would make an initial €5m ($5.7m) available from central funds to the north-western region. This was announced by the Prime Minister who held a cabinet meeting in Genoa.

Late at night, the Government also announced that there will be ‘State Funerals’ on Saturday for the victims of the catastrophe. The funerals will be held at 1100h.

The day after the catastrophe was characterised by anger and disbelief. The hope to find more survivors started to fade. So far the death toll has reached 39.

Although the reason has not been determined as yet, there was heavy criticism towards the private company responsible for operating the bridge.

39 might sound a number. However for the families of those who lost their lives, these people had a name, a face and a life.

The BBC and Ansa feature gives a description of the victims, amongst which there was a  young family on holiday, a chef from Chile and two workers crushed by falling debris have been named among the victims of the motorway bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy. There were also three children.

The tragedy has focussed anger on the structural problems that have dogged the decades old Morandi bridge and the private sector firm Autostrade per l’Italia, which is currently in charge of operating and maintaining swathes of the country’s motorways.

Deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio said the tragedy “could have been avoided”.

“Autostrade should have done maintenance and didn’t do it,” he alleged.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also confirmed that his government would push to revoke the company’s contract for the A10 motorway, which includes the bridge, while Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said the company should be fined up to 150 million euros ($170 million).

The firm, which said the bridge had been undergoing maintenance work, however, released a statement refuting accusations of underfunding of motorway infrastructure.

“In the last five years (2012-2017) the company’s investment in the security, maintenance and strengthening of the network has been over one billion euros a year,” it said.

In the meantime Italy’s Five Star Movement, now in government, claimed in 2013 that an imminent collapse was a “fairytale.” A provincial study by M5S had referred to the “fairytale (favoletta) of an imminent collapse of the Morandi Bridge.”

The statement has since been deleted from the party website but a cached version is still available.

Following Tuesday’s bridge collapse, which claimed at least 42 lives, Italian Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli — a member of M5S — wrote on Facebook that he wanted the concession of operator Autostrade Per l’Italia revoked.

In December 2012 Giovanni Calvini, president of the local branch of the General Confederation of Italian Industry, Confindustria, gave a prophetic end-of-tenure interview to Genoa’s local newspaper, Il Secolo XIX.

He was generally frustrated with local authorities blocking reform and investment in infrastructure. He had one project on his mind in particular.

“In ten years the Morandi Bridge will collapse, and we will all have to queue for hours, and we will remember the name of whoever said ‘no’ [to the Gronda],” he said.

The day the Calvini interview was published the Genoa council held a debate.

Councillor Paolo Putti was furious. “I take this opportunity to express my feeling of anger… and I must also say a bit of amazement,” he said.

In 10 years, Putti said, far from ruing a bridge collapse, entrepreneurs would instead wonder why they had squandered €5 billion ($7.8 billion) on the bypass.

He said the bridge could stand for another 100 years.

He pointed out that thousands were opposed to the bypass, and “we are the strong and Calvini and others are the weak”.

Putti was the local leader of the 5-Star Movement, M5S, the coalition partner to Salvini in Italy’s new government.

 

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