Italy inaugurates new Genoa bridge after deadly collapse

GENOA, ITALY (AFP) – Italy inaugurated a sleek new bridge in Genoa yesterday, though relatives of the 43 people killed when the old viaduct collapsed said the pomp and ceremony risked overshadowing the tragedy.

Jets trailing the colours of the Italian flag roared overhead as the national anthem played, almost two years to the day the Morandi highway gave way during heavy rain, hurling dozens of cars and several trucks onto railway tracks below.

President Sergio Mattarella was the first to officially cross the new bridge, designed by famed Italian architect Renzo Piano, who gave it a curved, gleaming underbelly evoking the hull of a ship in tribute to Genoa’s maritime history.

The names of the victims were read aloud – though many of their loved ones were not present.

“We won’t be at the inauguration, we don’t want the tragedy to be transformed into a carnival,” said Egle Possetti, whose sister died in the August 14, 2018 disaster along with her husband and their two children.

“You can have this sort of big party if you knock down the bridge because it’s old, you build a new one, and no one’s died.”

The Morandi bridge had been riddled with structural problems for decades, leading to expensive maintenance, and its collapse threw the spotlight on Italy’s creaking infrastructure.

The tragedy also ended the longstanding concession of highway maintenance by a company majority-owned by the powerful Benetton family.

The new high-tech structure will have four maintenance robots running along its length to spot weathering or erosion, as well as a special dehumidification system to limit corrosion.

It is open to traffic today or tomorrow.

Architect Piano, a Genoa native whose building designs include the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and The Shard in London, has described his new creation as a “child born of tragedy”.

“It was horrific. I remember the sounds, the smells, terrible things,” said Silvano Ruffoni, one of the first paramedics on the scene when, at just after 11.30am, some 250 metres of the vast concrete structure crumbled into the void.

“We were met by such an atrocious sight. The bridge was gone. We were thunderstruck,” he said in an interview with the local daily Il Secolo XIX last week.

The new viaduct, he said, was “a sign of rebirth”.

But Possetti, who is a spokeswoman for a victims’ relatives group, said she would “never cross that bridge”.

“How could you be there and not think of everything that happened, and that destroyed your family,” she told AFP.

The Morandi was hailed a marvel of engineering when it opened in 1967, but an investigation into the disaster found it was neglected.