Italian government gives €5m to Liguria after motorway bridge tragedy

16 Aug 18

Italy’s central government will make at least €5m available to the north-western Liguria region after a motorway bridge collapsed in Genoa on Tuesday leaving 39 dead.

This comes as it has emerged that the Five Star Movement, which has been leading the country’s government since earlier this year, wrote off safety fears about the bridge as a children’s “fairy story”.

A 2013 statement on the party’s website described the warnings of “imminent collapse of the Morandi Bridge” as a “favoletta” – the Italian word for a children’s fantasy tale or fairy story. The statement has since been deleted but a version is still visible online.

Architects and engineers had warned that the bridge, built in the 1960s, suffered design flaws. Although some reinforcement work was carried out in 2016, a complete rebuild did not take place.

The country’s prime minister Guiseppe Conte declared on Wednesday a 12-month state of emergency in the region – a day after the Morandi Bridge collapse – in response to a plea from the governor of Liguria Giovanni Toti.

Following a cabinet meeting held in the city of Genoa, Conte said he would release €5m from the national emergency fund for immediate needs.

He added: “These are unacceptable tragedies that should not happen in a modern society. This government will do everything to prevent such tragedies from happening again.”

This was the fifth bridge collapse in Italy in five years, according to Corriere Della Sera.

According to the OECD, total investment and maintenance spending on Italian transport infrastructure fell by 58% between 2008 and 2015.

But the prime minister has pledged that all infrastructure across the country will be double-checked in the wake of the collapse.

Conte also confirmed that the government would begin proceedings to revoke the contract of private sector firm Autostrade per I’Italia, which was in charge of operating and maintaining the bridge and the motorway it was part of.

The company has defended its maintenance record, saying it has checked the bridge every three months using specialised techniques.

On Wednesday the European Commission also called on the ruling coalition in Rome to prioritise infrastructure spending and said it had approved an €8.5bn investment plan for motorways in April, including in the Genoa region, under EU state aid rules.

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