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Italian bridge company under fire as rescuers toil for third day

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Genoa: Italy’s populist government was on a war footing on Thursday with the Italian operator of the bridge that collapsed and killed dozens in the port city of Genoa as desperate efforts to find survivors in the rubble went into a third day. Shares in Atlantia, the holding company of infrastructure giant Autostrade per L’Italia, plummeted after the government said it would seek to revoke its lucrative contracts.


On the ground, rescue workers toiled among bulldozers and cranes to find survivors amid the ruins of a vast span of the Morandi bridge that collapsed on Tuesday, sending about 35 cars and several trucks plunging 45 metres onto railway tracks below.


“We were unlucky last night, we did not find anyone. We are still looking for cavities that can hide people, living or not,” said fire official Emanuele Gissi, adding that the unstable rubble has made the search operation “dangerous.”


“We are trying to cut the big pieces of concrete that fell off the bridge, after which we will move them with the cranes and send in search dogs. Then our personnel will try to see if there are any positive signs.”


The government has blamed Autostrade per l’Italia, which operates and maintains nearly half of the country’s motorways, for the tragedy that Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Thursday has claimed at least 38 lives.


Children aged eight, 12 and 13 were among the dead, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Wednesday, adding that more people were still missing. Sixteen people were injured.


Three Chileans, who live in Italy, and four French nationals were also killed. The government has announced a year-long state of emergency in the region, with five million euros going towards recovery work.


Conte said on Wednesday that his government would seek 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 $170 million.


The government, in power only since June, claims that Autostrade failed to carry out necessary maintenance of the bridge, which has also drawn fire from engineering experts.


A transport ministry spokesperson said the government was mulling revoking all other motorway contracts awarded to the company.


Autostrade denies that it scrimps on motorway maintenance, saying it has invested over one billion euros a year in “safety, maintenance and strengthening of the network” since 2012.


Autostrade’s holding company Atlantia slammed the government for threatening to revoke its contracts “without any verification of the material causes of the accident.”


— AFP


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