Italy bridge collapse kills 37, ignites national anger

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Rescuers are continuing to look for survivors after part of a motorway bridge collapsed in Italy's northwestern Liguria region on Tuesday.

Frozen at the edge of a yawning precipice, a single green truck sits next to the edge of the surviving stretch of bridge, having halted just seconds from disaster.

Dangers include unstable piles of rubble, while the remaining parts of the bridge are being assessed for further risk of collapse.

Maintenance was "underway to consolidate it", the company in charge of Italian highways, Autostrade, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Italy's transport minister, Danilo Toninelli, says the leaders of the private company that manages many of Italy's highways - including the section of a bridge that collapsed in Genoa - should resign.

At least one person told Italy's ANSA news agency that lightning had struck the bridge before the collapse.

Dozens of cars and three trucks fell about 150 feet to the ground Tuesday when Gebona's Morandi Bridge collapsed one day before Italy's major summer holiday.

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Genoa's prefect office announced the updated figure Wednesday as a rescue team continued its searched through tons of slab of broken roadbed, smashed concrete chunks and twisted steel for other survivors.

Residents of Genoa, one of Italy's biggest port cities, are in shock over the collapse of a busy bridge that served as a motorway bypass.

Autostrade controls 3,020 kilometres (1,876 miles) of Italian highways.

Asked if authorities had been given any warning that the bridge, - a key link between two high-speed highways, one headed toward neighbouring France and the other to Milan - could be risky, Cozzi indicated that no serious safety concerns before Tuesday had reached his office.

Within hours of the disaster, the anti-establishment government that took office in June said the collapse showed Italy needed to spend more on its dilapidated infrastructure, ignoring European Union budget constraints if necessary.

Civil protection authorities confirmed 39 people died and 15 were injured.

A pensioner died in October 2016 when his auto was crushed by a collapsing bridge over a dual carriageway between Milan and Lecco.

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The French Foreign Ministry says Wednesday that the victims include three French citizens and expressed condolences to their families.

Pope Francis has led prayers for the victims in St Peter's Square, saying: "I am especially thinking of all those tried by the tragedy in Genoa yesterday, which caused victims and a sense of loss in the population". They pulled two more bodies from the wreckage on Wednesday, raising the death toll to 39.

Emergency teams say they are treating recovery efforts like an quake, removing rubble carefully in search of survivors.

Many in the city had said the 1967 bridge needed shoring up.

On Tuesday, a specialist engineering website called "Ingegneri.info" wrote that the bridge had long presented "structural doubts" and labelled it "an accident waiting to happen".

The University of Bath's Martin Fullekrug said "lightning generated heat could result in evaporating water to very high pressure and produce a subsequent crack or burst of critical support material, similar to the bark of a tree disintegrating after a lightning strike".

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