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World

Bridge In Northern Italy Buckles During Storm, Killing At Least 26 People

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

One minute it was there, and the next, a chunk of major highway that links Italy and France was gone, collapsed. The Morandi Bridge in the northern Italian city of Genoa buckled today during a sudden storm. Cars and trucks crashed 150 feet straight down into the river and rubble below. Italian authorities have confirmed 26 people dead. More are injured. The collapse has prompted a desperate search for survivors and questions about how this happened. Well, earlier we spoke with Stefano Rellandini of Reuters. He was overlooking that bridge in Genoa.

STEFANO RELLANDINI: I'm just find a spot on top of the hill to have a better view about the situation of the bridge. Now everything looks stabilized. But we still have a truck nearly where the bridge is crashed.

KELLY: This is a truck that got lucky, that made it almost to the end...

RELLANDINI: Yeah, yep.

KELLY: ...Of the bridge but is still on the road that's still holding - wow, all right.

RELLANDINI: All right, correct. The firefighters and police - they're still searching. They're using a light generator now. And I'm still waiting to see what about the news. But they're still working down on the ground. And I don't see anyone on the bridge now.

KELLY: But there are - incredibly, there were survivors of this. They did manage to pull some people out of vehicles that did crash.

RELLANDINI: Yeah, so the Italian news agencies say that 35 are injured at the moment.

KELLY: Are injured, yeah.

RELLANDINI: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

KELLY: They're in hospitals being treated now, we assume, in Genoa.

RELLANDINI: Yeah, they are all in the hospital being treated now. But they still believe they need to search more.

KELLY: Yeah. There have been a lot of reports about the weather today, reports that lightning may have played a role. I said there was a sudden storm. What do we know about that?

RELLANDINI: Well, at the time when the bridge collapse, it was heavy raining in Genoa. And here is a difficult city when you have heavy raining and storm because it's right next to the sea. And then the city is builded (ph) just right back of the hill.

KELLY: And the bridge itself which you're now standing beside - this is not some ancient ruin. This was a relatively modern bridge built in the 1960s and I gathered had just been repaired and renovated a couple years ago.

RELLANDINI: Well, there's some controversial thing about this bridge.

KELLY: What kind of controversy?

RELLANDINI: The engineers say that it was not builded up perfectly. It's not...

KELLY: The engineers say it wasn't well-built.

RELLANDINI: Yeah, yeah, it's not the kind of bridge - built it up on the right place in the city. That could be a problem in the future, and it is done today.

KELLY: Will there be a major impact on transport for the city, for the region with this bridge out?

RELLANDINI: Definitely, yes, yeah, yeah. Now everything is blocked. So that is the main road to go even with the truck coming back and forward to France. So this is the main thing. Now everything is blocked.

KELLY: And have local authorities or Italian authorities said anything about where the investigation will go tomorrow and in the days to come?

RELLANDINI: They're still working on. Tomorrow we have interior minister Matteo Salvini visit the place and inspect the place. Today Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is at the place. They're still talking about what a great job the firefighters and rescue workers did it, and they still continue to do it.

KELLY: Have they given any kind of timeline on how long this rescue operation will continue? I assume it's going into the night there.

RELLANDINI: Oh, yeah, absolutely, for all night long and then tomorrow and after tomorrow for sure.

KELLY: That's Stefano Rellandini of Reuters reporting from Genoa in the north of Italy where a major bridge linking traffic between Italy and France collapsed today. Stefano, thanks very much.

RELLANDINI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.