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‘An unacceptable tragedy’: Italy’s president demands road safety guarantee


Italy’s president demanded guarantees Saturday that all the nation’s roads are safe following the Genoa highway bridge collapse, after he hugged and comforted mourners at a state funeral for many of the dead in the grieving port city.

Hours earlier, the toll from Tuesday’s bridge collapse unofficially surpassed 40 after the discovery of four more bodies. 

Firefighter Stefano Zanut told Sky TG24 TV they had extracted from tons of broken concrete the crushed car of an Italian couple on vacation with their nine-year-old daughter.

Zanut said the last body pulled out of the wreckage was that of a young Italian man, an employee of Genoa’s trash company, who was working under the bridge when it collapsed. The man’s mother had refused to leave a tent set up a few hundred yards away from the rubble until his body was found.

Another victim, a Romanian truck driver, died in a Genoa hospital Saturday evening. He had suffered severe cranial and chest injuries. Doctors described Marian Rosca, 36, as the most severely injured survivor of Tuesday’s bridge collapse.

Frame taken from a video released by the Vigili del Fuoco (Firefighters) shows an aerial view of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge, in Genoa. Saturday has been declared a national day of mourning in Italy and includes a state funeral at the industrial port city’s fairgrounds for those who plunged to their deaths as the 45-metre Morandi Bridge gave way Tuesday. (Vigil del Fuoco via The Associated Press)

Before the state funeral ceremony began in a pavilion on Genoa’s fairgrounds, President Sergio Mattarella offered quiet words of comfort for the victims’ families. He then took his place with other Italian leaders, including Premier Giuseppe Conte and the transportation and infrastructure minister, in the cavernous hall.

Families of 19 of the dead had their loved ones’ coffins brought to the hall for the funeral mass led by Genoa’s archbishop, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco.  

Among the coffins were those of two young Albanian Muslim men who lived and worked in Italy. Their remains were blessed at the end of the Catholic service by a Genoa imam, who drew applause when he prayed for God to “protect Italy and all Italians.”

At other funerals elsewhere in Italy on Friday, angry mourners accused authorities of negligence and incompetence for failing to keep the bridge safe.

During the state funeral, applause rang out and many fought back tears as a prelate read out the first names of some 30 victims who have so far been identified. The mourners also applauded for Italian firefighters, police and volunteers for the civil protection department as they arrived.

Mattarella toured what’s left of the Morandi Bridge, which broke apart in a fierce rainstorm, sending a long stretch of roadbed crashing 45 metres into a dry river bed and near several apartment buildings. Those buildings have been evacuated and local authorities have said they will have to be demolished.

Mattarella didn’t speak at the funeral, held on a national day of mourning, but after the ceremony ended, he told reporters the bridge collapse “is an unacceptable tragedy.” 

He called the funeral “a moment of grief, shared grief, by all of Italy” and demanded that “responsibility be ascertained with rigour” for the bridge’s collapse. Completed in 1967, it linked two major highways, one leading to Milan and the other toward France.

Prosecutors say they are focusing their probe on possible design flaws or inadequate maintenance.

The Italian highway company in charge of the Genoa highway bridge that collapsed says it can build a new bridge in eight months.

In his homily, the cardinal said the tragedy “gashed the heart of Genoa.”

A woman wipes a small white coffin of a victim of a collapsed highway bridge prior to the start of Saturday’s funeral service. (Gregorio Borgia/The Associated Press)

“The initial disbelief and then the growing dimension of the catastrophe, the general bewilderment, the tumult of emotions, the pressing ‘Whys?’ have touched us yet again, and in a brutal way showed the inexorable fragility of the human condition,” Bagnasco said. 

He encouraged citizens to show solidarity so “we can build new bridges to walk together” and rise above the tragedy. Bagnasco told the mourners that Pope Francis had called him Friday evening to express his closeness to all those suffering.

Also attending the mass were players and managers from the city’s two major league soccer teams, Genoa and Sampdoria. Their weekend matches were postponed out of respect for the dead.

The names of the dead were placed on each coffin before the altar. Photographs, flowers and on one coffin a signed sports jersey, a sports trophy and a stuffed animal added personal touches.

Players from a local team in Italy’s Serie D soccer, Campi Corniglianese, came to pay tribute to one of their own. Marius Djerri, 22, played for the team and was on his way to work for a cleaning company when the truck he was travelling in plunged into the abyss.

Team president Augustus Pintus recalled him as “a golden boy. Maybe not the strongest player on the pitch, but as a person, I would like all players to be like him.”



Source : cbc

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