Inquiry into Genoa bridge collapse highlights poor maintenance, design flaws

·2-min read

More than two years after the collapse of Genoa's Ponte Morandi bridge, on 14 August 2018, an independent report commissioned by a judge has pointed the finger at the bridge operator, finding poor maintenance and flaws in the construction were likely behind the deadly accident.

Families of the 43 victims of that tragedy had anxiously awaited the report by four technical experts that was finally released this week. They hope it will help bring justice and closure through a trial that is expected to begin next week.

Residents in Genoa were shocked and angered by the collapse of the bridge designed by well-known Italian engineer Riccardo Morandi and considered a symbol of innovation when it was built in the 1960s.

At the height of summer in August 2018, there were torrential rains over Genoa the day that the 210-meter section of the bridge along a viaduct collapsed causing more than 30 vehicles to fall off the bridge, many into the river.

The day after the collapse, the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte declared a state of emergency for the Liguria region, which lasted one year. A state funeral was held for the victims.

The just published lengthy 467-page report has concluded after in-depth investigations into the causes of the disaster that a combination of factors were to blame, including poor maintenance and construction and design flaws.

The experts wrote that the tragedy could most likely have been avoided if the proper checks had been carried out and added that “the lack and/or the inadequacy of the checks are the weak link in the system.”

The phenomenon of corrosion of the cables on the top of the southern stay of one of the towers was cited as the main culprit. The stability of the bridge was compromised due to “the process of corrosion that began from the first years of life of the bridge and continued without ever stopping until its collapse”, the experts wrote.

The report was commissioned for use in the trial, due to start in February, which will see technician and managers from the bridge operator, Autostrade per l’Italia as well as civil servants from Italy’s Ministry of Infrastructures and Transportation, take the stand.

The experts have criticised various aspects in the way the bridge was managed by the operator saying that “the examinations that were carried out did not allow for an adequate level of knowledge on the effective state of degradation of the cables.”