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World

Large Portion Of Major Highway That Links Italy And France Collapses

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

One minute it was there, and the next, a chunk of a 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 more than two dozen are dead, and that number is likely to rise. The collapse prompted a desperate search for survivors and questions about how this happened.

We're joined now by Matteo Pucciarelli, a reporter with the Italian newspaper la Repubblica. He has been in Genoa today surveying the scene. And Matteo, you were actually at the site of the bridge collapse earlier. Can you describe what it looked like?

MATTEO PUCCIARELLI: Yeah. Hi, everyone. I arrived this morning, and the image of the collapse of the bridge is apocalyptic. It's like if a bomb had fallen over the bridge. I arrived more or less an hour after the collapse. And the scene seemed to be from an American movie. Under the bridge, there is the river and the highway. And in the morning, there were several white sheets to cover the bodies of people, deaths. It's the first time in my life that I saw something like that.

CORNISH: You mentioned white sheets covering the bodies of the victims. What is the status of the rescue effort? Are any survivors being pulled from the wreckage?

PUCCIARELLI: Now, in this moment and for all the night, there are 200 people - firefighters, police men. They try to find other people, but the hope of finding survivors is low because the fall from the bridge is high.

CORNISH: What have you learned so far about what might have caused the collapse?

PUCCIARELLI: We don't know in this moment. The reason is unknown. But the bridge was under maintenance for several years. Today I saw some newspapers - local newspapers that 20 years ago wrote that the bridge was a big (unintelligible). More people know that this ponte, Ponte Morandi, the name, was very, very dangerous.

CORNISH: So this bridge, even though it was only built in the 1960s, had a reputation for being dangerous, you're saying. And I understand there had been some renovations in recent years.

PUCCIARELLI: This bridge in the past was a big construction, was very important in Italy. Riccardo Morandi, the engineer, was an important designer. But a expert (unintelligible) said that this project had been badly designed, and it is a problem.

CORNISH: What kind of impact is this also going to have just on transportation to and from the city, to the region?

PUCCIARELLI: It's a big problem for us because this bridge connected Ponente and Lombardia with the half of Liguria. It was a fundamental road for trade and tourism. And now Genoa is isolated.

CORNISH: You're saying Genoa is basically isolated. Is there any other way other than this bridge?

PUCCIARELLI: Yeah, there are some local routes. But the problem is that these routes are very, very slow. For the moment, for example, the harbor of Genoa, the biggest harbor in Italy, is completely isolated because the big community here - they don't pass in these little roads.

CORNISH: That's Matteo Pucciarelli. He's a reporter with the Italian newspaper la Repubblica. Thank you for speaking with us.

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