Rescuers in Italy comb concrete and steel after bridge collapse

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte centre visits the site

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte centre visits the site

Image: Samuele's toys were reportedly found in the wreckage of the vehicle.

A lorry driver had a miraculous escape after coming to a stop just before the edge of the bridge collapse.

"We can not know if there are survivors remaining, but it's our job to search", he said, adding that the rescue operation would take days.

"We're not giving up hope, we've already saved a dozen people from under the rubble", said rescue official Emanuele Giffi.

Civil Protection authorities said at least 30 cars and three heavy vehicles were on the 80-metre section of the span that collapsed in the industrial area of warehouses. At least two people were missing. It called for a "Marshall Plan" to fix or replace tens of thousands of Italian bridges and viaducts built in the 1950s and 1960s. Rescue teams have continued working throughout the night.

The man, who has not been named, told rescuers: "I saw the the road collapsing in front of me, with all the cars that were in front of me". Nobody has ever crossed that bridge with a light heart.

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On Tuesday specialist engineering website published a piece that highlighted how the bridge had always presented "structural doubts", calling it "a tragedy waiting to happen".

"Autostrade per l'Italia was not able to fulfil its obligations under the contract regulating management of this infrastructure", Danilo Toninelli said on RAI 1 state TV, adding that he would also seek to levy heavy fines against the company.

Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said the private sector manager of the bridge had earned "billions" from tolls but "did not spend the money they were supposed to" and its concession should be revoked.

Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio said the tragedy "could have been avoided", adding that those responsible for the disaster had a "name and surname".

"The collapse was unexpected and unpredictable".

The Morandi bridge is very similar to its much larger cousin, the Lake Maracaibo bridge in Venezuela, which were both designed by Mr Morandi.

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Autostrade said the bridge maintenance programme had been based on the results of its regular checks and had also been approved by the transport ministry.

The highway connecting France and the Italian Riviera is popular with tourists.

Cars and trucks were tangled in the rubble and nearby buildings damaged by vast chunks of concrete, according to an AFP photographer at the scene.

It was unclear what had caused the collapse, but the event raised questions among some Italian government officials about maintenance of their country's infrastructure - a common concern in developed countries, where numerous major roadways were built decades ago.

The country is prone to seismic activity, but its infrastructure is showing the effects of economic stagnation.

In March previous year, a couple were killed when a motorway overpass collapsed on their vehicle near Ancona on the country's Adriatic coast. A pensioner died in 2016 when a bridge fell onto a major road between Milan and Lecco.

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