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Offbeat How Dangerous Are Italy’s Bridges? Even After Genoa, No One Knows

00:10  17 august  2018
00:10  17 august  2018 Source:   nytimes.com

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“ Italy needs this,” Professor Crispino added. In addition to the dozens confirmed dead in the collapse, “there could be 10 to 20 people still missing” in the wreckage, Genoa ’ s chief prosecutor, Francesco Cozzi, said on Thursday, based on reports from people who have not found their loved ones .

GENOA , Italy — As deaths from the bridge failure in Genoa rose on Wednesday to 39, it became clear that while the How were so many omens ignored? And how much of Italy ’ s aging, often neglected infrastructure is also at risk of failure? Even parts that in modern bridges are usually made of steel

ROME — Amid predictions that the death toll may rise in the bridge collapse in Genoa, experts warned on Thursday that other potentially deadly threats lurked in the country’s aging infrastructure, but so little information is available that no one can reliably estimate the scale of the problem.

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GENOA , Italy — An off-duty firefighter, Davide Capello, had just driven out of a tunnel and onto the main bridge over Genoa in a heavy summer rain, when he heard a low, dull rumble all around his Autostrade never denied Professor Gentile’ s findings, but said that no one had perceived any urgency.

Were you in Genoa when the bridge collapsed? A bridge that collapsed killing at least 26 people in the Italian city of Genoa was almost certainly brought down by a fatal flaw in its construction or wear and tear inspectors missed, experts say. There was no reason to consider the bridge dangerous .'

Italian newspapers have rolled out a series of alarming banner headlines. Il Messaggero, for example, pointed to an “Infrastructure Emergency.”

In reality — and this may be of equal concern — it is unclear whether Tuesday’s failure of the Morandi Bridge signals a national crisis. There is no national organization that tracks the condition of Italy’s infrastructure and makes public its findings.

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A jumble of public, private, local, regional and national agencies operate and maintain the country’s highways, bridges, viaducts and tunnels with little oversight — a system so fragmented that it is sometimes unclear who is responsible for a tract of road or a bridge. In the case of a bridge that collapsed in 2016, killing one person, provincial and national authorities continue to blame each other.

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  Rescue work goes on in Italy after deadly bridge collapse Italian rescue workers toiled for a third day in hopes of finding survivors trapped under the rubble of the collapsed highway bridge in Genoa. Meanwhile, authorities announced plans for a state funeral for the victims to be held on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. local time in Genoa, also declaring the day one of national morning.Cars are blocked on the Morandi highway bridge after a section of it collapsed on Aug. 14, in Genoa, northern Italy.

Bridge collapses in Italy after violent storm 02:06. Silvia Marchetti is a Rome-based freelance reporter and writer. She covers finance, economics, travel and culture Genoa ' s Morandi Bridge , on the other hand, was nearing its end, in constant need of repairs that unfortunately extended only as far as minor

Italy ’ s new populist government, which has accused the previous administration of weak oversight of “We spoke with Anas, who sent their technicians who ascertained that the bridge was dangerous . In Genoa , investigating prosecutor D’Ovidio said no formal complaint had ever been lodged with the

“The law says that the owner or concessionaire of the infrastructure must ensure that it is secure for the transit of vehicles,” said Maurizio Crispino, an infrastructure specialist at the Polytechnic University of Milan. But no central authority enforces those requirements, he said, or “controls the upkeep of infrastructure, like there is for airports.”

“Italy needs this,” Professor Crispino added.

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In addition to the dozens confirmed dead in the collapse, “there could be 10 to 20 people still missing” in the wreckage, Genoa’s chief prosecutor, Francesco Cozzi, said on Thursday, based on reports from people who have not found their loved ones. (The government lowered its official toll on Thursday to 38, from 39.)

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Leaders of Italy’s new populist governing coalition have blamed the catastrophe on Autostrade per l’Italia, the company that operates the A10 highway, including the bridge, accusing it of stinting on maintenance — a charge the company has denied. Officials said on Wednesday that they would revoke the company’s contract and assess a fine of up to 150 million euros, or more than $170 million.

But on Thursday, there seemed to be some uncertainty about what the government would or could do. The deputy transport minister, Edoardo Rixi, said the options included a fine alone, removing Autostrade’s control of the A10 or revoking the company’s operation of all Italian roadways. Autostrade is by far the largest private manager of Italian highways, with more than 3,000 kilometers, or about 1,900 miles, under its control.

Autostrade’s parent company, Altantia, said in a statement that it had met the requirements of its contract, and that the government was making accusations “without any verification of the material causes of the accident.” It warned that revoking its concession required following specific steps, and could force the government to pay millions to the company.

Even so, the threats battered Atlantia’s stock and bond prices. The company’s shares closed down 22 percent on Thursday, erasing about $3.8 billion in value.

Though many Italians are on vacation, those remaining in Genoa, a city hemmed in by mountains and sea, struggled on Thursday to return to their usual rhythms without one of the major arteries connecting the eastern and western parts of the city. The season-opening matches for Genoa’s two major soccer teams, Genoa and Sampdoria, scheduled for this weekend, were postponed in recognition of a period of mourning.

Experts had warned for years that the Morandi Bridge, built from 1963 to 1967, was in poor shape and potentially dangerous, and various theories about the collapse have been aired this week. But whether the failure was caused by design flaws, poor maintenance, substandard materials, earth movement or some combination of factors, it could be a long time before investigators provide definitive answers and make it possible to draw lessons from the tragedy.

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Danilo Toninelli, the transportation minister, has said that the government ordered a comprehensive safety review of Italy’s infrastructure, but that, too, promises to be a long, expensive project. He and many transportation experts have noted that much of the country’s infrastructure, including bridges, was built in the 1950s and 1960s or earlier, and is showing signs of age.

Italy entrusts its roads to a variety of authorities, from thousands of municipalities to two dozen private companies that manage the nation’s toll highways. A 2001 law called on all road operators to compile a registry of all the infrastructure under their control, but that registry still does not exist, though some progress has been made on it in recent years.

“If you don’t know what you’re responsible for, it’s hard to do proper maintenance,” Professor Crispino said. “It’s a long, complex and challenging process, but it is necessary.”

Antonio Occhiuzzi, the director of the National Research Council’s Institute for Construction Technology, said that Italy needed an autonomous infrastructure watchdog, especially as projects built during the postwar boom showed their fragility.

Mr. Occhiuzzi estimated that about half of Italy’s 25,000 bridges — many of them built in the 1950s and 1960s — could use a thorough checkup to ensure their safety. And academics, he said, should be called on to play a bigger role as independent monitors.

“There are plenty of experts in this country that could help,” Mr. Occhiuzzi said. “It’s a huge error not to turn to universities for help.”

Armando Zambrano, the president of Italy’s national council of engineers, dismissed the notion that Italy’s infrastructure was in a state of emergency. “Maintenance work is normally well regulated,” he said, though in Genoa, the controls in place clearly failed to identify the risk.

But Mr. Zambrano agreed that the country needed better oversight and tougher laws to ensure that highway operators met their maintenance obligations.

Local and regional officials debated for years before finally agreeing on a plan to expand Genoa’s highway network, which would have relieved pressure on the Morandi Bridge, and possibly make way for its demolition. Construction on that project has not started.

Big infrastructure projects here often meet fierce opposition from the local population, environmentalists, historic preservationists and politicians. In the case of Genoa, populists now in the national government had dismissed the highway plan as unnecessary and a formula for corruption.

“This is a general problem in Italy,” said Andrea Del Grosso, a professor emeritus in engineering at the University of Genoa. “It’s always hard to make decisions, so projects drag on for decades, costs inflate, and when they decide to do them, it’s usually too late.”

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