WORLD Italy mourns bridge collapse victims, new emergency funds approved

WORLD

Italy mourns bridge collapse victims, new emergency funds approved

Xinhua

12:25, August 19, 2018

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Thousands of people gathered in the northwest Italian city of Genoa on Saturday to mourn the victims of a dramatic bridge collapse that killed dozens of people earlier this week.

After the state funeral, new emergency funding worth 28.47 million euros (32.49 million U.S. dollars) were approved to implement urgent interventions in the region.

The state funeral was held in a pavilion of the city's Fair and Exhibition center at the presence of the country's top officials. It was broadcast live by all national TV networks in the country.

Some 19 coffins covered by flowers were laid out for the state ceremony, while another 20 families of victims opted for private funerals in their hometowns.

Near some of the coffins, relatives left everyday items to recall their loved ones, such as a child's soccer ball, or a beach umbrella.

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Among the victims were Italians from across the country, but also people from France, Albania, Romania, Colombia, Chile, and Peru, according to data by the prefecture.

All of them were driving through Genoa's Morandi Bridge shortly before noon on Tuesday, when the mid-portion of the huge viaduct suddenly collapsed, sending dozens of vehicles plunging 45 meters to the ground.

"The collapse of the Morandi Bridge has caused a gash in the heart of Genoa," the city's archbishop, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, who led the ceremony, said.

"Genoa is in the gaze of the world, in a strong hug full of emotion and affection," he added, referring to the countless signs of solidarity received from across Italy and abroad.

The funeral was attended by President Sergio Mattarella, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and several cabinet ministers, along with major officials from other public institutions.

Some 4,000 people overall crowded the pavilion.

When a delegation of firefighters entered to pay their respect to the victims, a long applause broke out as a sign of gratitude for their relentless search and rescue efforts since the tragedy occurred.

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Since two Albanian victims were of Islamic faith, the Imam of Genoa also joined the ceremony and led a pray at the end of the catholic mass.

"There are now three major commitments to be honored," Mattarella said in an official note after the funeral.

"Firstly, support to the relatives of the victims, to the injured ones, and to the families who had to leave their homes for security reasons," he stated.

A second prior commitment was "a rigorous and prompt ascertainment of responsibility."

"Furthermore, (there is) the duty to ensure the safety of roads and transports: these obligations are towards Genoa and the whole country," Mattarella said.

After the state funeral, PM Conte called a cabinet meeting at Genoa's prefecture, which approved new emergency funding worth 28.47 million euros.

The amount "corresponds to that requested by the Liguria Region to implement urgent interventions on alternative roads, viability system, and housing for families that had to leave their homes due to the risk of (further) collapse," the PM's office said in a statement.

Regional governor Giovanni Toti told reporters after the cabinet meeting these funds would add to 5 million euros allocated by the central government in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

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The unofficial death toll of the bridge collapse rose to 43, as four bodies were recovered on Saturday, and a Romanian man rescued died of his injures at Genoa's San Martino hospital.

Up to Saturday late afternoon, however, the prefecture put the official death toll at 40, as identification procedures were yet to be completed.

Meanwhile, Autostrade per l'Italia (Highways for Italy) executives said Saturday the highway operator will build a new steel viaduct within eight months to replace the Morandi Bridge.

Speaking at a televised press conference, Autostrade CEO Giovanni Castellucci said the company will set up a fund for the relatives of the victims, plus compensation for residents of buildings that will have to be demolished in order to build the new bridge.

The company will spend an estimated 500 million euros in emergency funding for the people of Genoa, Castellucci specified in reply to questions from reporters.

Castellucci expressed condolences for the victims, and reiterated that the company had done all it could to monitor the bridge and that there had been nothing to indicate an imminent collapse.

"We trust the judiciary will shed light on the truth, and that the truth will be accepted," Castellucci said.

Two commissions of inquiry have been set up. One by the transport ministry, and the other by the Genoa prosecutor's office, which has opened a criminal investigation into the deadly collapse. (1 euro = 1.14 U.S. dollars)


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