Abandoned vehicles seen on the Morandi motorway bridge. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
In a scathing attack, Danilo Toninelli, the transport minister from the Five Star Movement (M5S) party, called for top managers at Autostrade to resign and launched an attempt to revoke the company’s contract and impose a €150m (£134m) fine.
Luigi Di Maio, the deputy prime minister and leader of M5S, wrote on Facebook that Autostrade was “definitely to blame”, as prosecutors launched a criminal inquiry that will focus on the bridge’s maintenance and design. T prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, also pointed the finger at Autostrade, calling the tragedy “unacceptable in a modern society” and vowing to work so similar events would not happen again.
Meanwhile, extraordinary accounts emerged of the moment the bridge came down. Davide Capello, a former professional footballer, told of how the road beneath his car collapsed as he was crossing the bridge, sending him into a terrifying freefall.
“I heard an amazing noise. I saw the road collapsing and I went down with it,” said Capello, 33, from his hospital bed. Few were as lucky as Capello, who walked away with barely a scratch though his car was a mangled wreck. “I was lucky enough to land, I don’t even know how because if you saw my car … I didn’t pass out. I felt as though a miracle happened.”
‘It was like being in a film’: ex-footballer on surviving Genoa bridge collapse – audio
Afifi Idriss, 39, a Moroccan lorry driver, told Italian media how a green lorry stopped just short of the abyss after another vehicle passed it at the last second, forcing it to brake slightly.
The driver “went back three metres then left the motor running and ran,” Idriss said. “I was behind him, two cars back. I backed up a little, leaving space for other cars. When I saw the thing was so big, that everything had fallen, I took the keys and got out of there.”
Genoa bridge graphic
Within hours of the disaster, the anti-establishment government that took office in June said the collapse showed
Italy needed to spend more on its dilapidated infrastructure, ignoring EU budget constraints if necessary.
Matteo Salvini, the far-right interior minister, said EU spending rules could have been responsible. “If external constraints prevent us from spending to have safe roads and schools, then it really calls into question whether it makes sense to follow these rules,” he said.
Di Maio said that “instead of investing money for maintenance, they [Benetton] divide the profits and that is why the bridge falls.”
Genoa bridge collapse: rescuers search for survivors – video report
In 2013, a statement published on the party’s website declared the bridge had the strength to “last another 100 years”. The post was removed from the site on Wednesday. Di Maio said it was published by spokesperson since expelled from the party and not in line with official policies.
Autostrade said in a statement that it had invested more than €1bn a year between 2012 and 2017 in maintaining and upgrading its network and ensuring its motorways were safe. The company said the improvements were reflected in a reduction in road accident and mortality rates. A fresh round of maintenance work was due to start in October.
The bridge collapse has reignited a longstanding debate about the state of Italian infrastructure. Corriere Della Sera reported that four other bridges had collapsed in the past five years.
The Morandi bridge has been riddled with structural problems since its construction in 1967, which has led to expensive maintenance and repeated criticism from engineering experts. On Tuesday the specialist engineering website Ingegneri.info published a piece that highlighted longstanding concerns over the bridge, calling it “a tragedy waiting to happen”.
The architect Renzo Piano told La Repubblica that “bridges do not collapse by accident”. He said: “I don’t know what happened yet; I don’t have enough information. What I can say is that I don’t believe that … nature is uncontrollable, that lightning strikes and rain [cannot be dealt with].”
Genoa motorway bridge collapse caught on camera – video report
Antonio Brencich, an engineering professor at the University of Genoa, said it would have been impossible to foresee Tuesday’s disaster because the design of the bridge did not allow for accurate checks on the status of the pylons.
Two years ago Brencich suggested in a study that the best approach with bridges such as the Morandi would be to demolish them and start again. “The materials that had been used to build that bridge were destined to deteriorate quickly,” he said on Wednesday.
Agence France-Presse contributed to this report