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August 15, 2018

Engineer warned in 2016 that Genoa bridge would need rebuilding


An engineering professor warned in 2016 that the so-called Morandi bridge near Genoa, which collapsed on Tuesday, needed to be completely rebuilt as its structure had deteriorated too rapidly.

Constructed in the 1960s, the motorway bridge underwent extensive repairs in the 1980s, 1990s and most recently in 2016. Work on its foundations was being carried out at the time of its collapse.

“The continuous costs for its maintenance suggest that in a few years, these costs will exceed the costs of reconstruction of the bridge: at that point it will be the time to demolish it and rebuild it,” Antonio Brencich, a professor of engineering at the University of Genoa told industry magazine two years ago.

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In an interview today with Radio Capital he confirmed his impression that structure was fundamentally unsound.

While such a bridge should last at least 100 years, he observed that “one of the towers, the east one had to be reinforced in a very significant way with a substitution of key components, only 20 years after its construction: 20 years for a bridge is nothing.”

The west tower of the 1.1km long bridge tumbled to the ground with as many as 35 vehicles driving on it, killing at least 26.

Rescuers in Genoa continued their search throughout the night for any survivors. The ANSA news agency has reported the death toll could reach around 35, citing fire brigade sources.

Luigi D’Angelo, a senior official at the civil protection agency, told reporters that the authorities did not have enough information to understand how the incident occurred.

However, the director of Autostrade del Tronco Genovese, Stefano Marigliani, who is responsible for maintenance of the region’s highways, told Radio Capital that the disaster could not have been foreseen:

“There were no signs of danger. The bridge is subject to frequent checks, it was a constantly-monitored infrastructure. The works in progress were just ordinary maintenance.”

The engineer who built the bridge, Riccardo Morandi was known for his innovative use of reinforced concrete. He was also behind the construction of Maracaibo bay bridge in Venezuela, which partially collapsed after being hit by a petrol tanker in 1964, two years after its completion.

Morandi, who also contributed to the construction bridges in Florence and near Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, took his own life on Christmas Day 1989.

Genoese architect Diego Zoppi, former president of the Genoese Order, told the ANSA news agency that the bridge was flawed in its construction.

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