Swiss Re reveals ties to Genoa bridge collapse tragedy

Marco Green
August 18, 2018

The statement said the disaster was the fault of the company which "had the obligation to look after the ordinary and extraordinary maintenance of the motorway".

Shares in the parent company of Autostrade per l'Italia which runs the highway plunged more than 30% in the days after the collapse but were recovering slightly on Friday as investors said government threats to revoke its concessions might be political rhetoric rather than a likely outcome.

Autostrade, controlled by the Benetton family, which also own the United Colours of Benetton fashion label, insists that the bridge was under constant surveillance and did not appear to be at risk.

Italy's government has blamed the operator of the viaduct for the tragedy and threatened to strip the firm of its contracts, while the country's creaking infrastructure has come under fresh scrutiny.

According to two Italian newspapers, a study commissioned past year by Italian highway operator Autostrade per l'Italia warned about the condition of concrete-encased cable stays that held the Morandi Bridge up.

Antonio Brencich, an engineering professor at Genoa University, said the bridge had been shown to be defective just two decades after it was opened in 1967.

The search is focusing around the ruins of a pillar that collapsed on the left bank of the Polvecera creek, and on a stretch of road that fell over rail tracks, the ANSA news agency said. Some architects have said the choice of encasing its cables in reinforced concrete was risky since it's harder to detect corrosion of the metal cables inside. "There are witnesses and videos that point in that direction".

Autostrade has said it monitored the bridge on a quarterly basis, as required by law, and carried out additional checks by hiring external experts. It had no immediate comment on Friday's news reports.

Since then, rescuers have been scouring through the rubble and crawling between the blocks of concrete, looking for survivors.

But the more than 300 firefighters who have been working non-stop since Tuesday resumed their task.

Autostrade, which estimates it will take five months to rebuild the bridge, denies scrimping on motorway maintenance, saying it has invested over one billion euros a year in "safety, maintenance and strengthening of the network" since 2012.

Firefighters, who are using sniffer dogs as well as heavy machinery, have not yet reached all the cars.

A Swiss Re spokeswoman told Reuters: "We are already working with and will continue supporting our client in managing the impact of this tragic event on the victims and their families".

Rescuer Stefano Zanut said it was possible that someone might be trapped, but alive, in what he called the "triangle of survival", where rubble or beams form a protective cover.

A state funeral for numerous victims will be held on Saturday at Genoa's convention centre, led by the city's archbishop, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, and attended by President Sergio Mattarella and Conte.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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