The sound of jackhammers reverberated through the night in this northern Italian city, where crews searched for survivors of a highway bridge collapse that left about two dozen people dead, officials said.
A major section of the bridge partially collapsed on Tuesday, sending vehicles hurtling toward the earth. Abandoned vehicles remain on the span, with one truck close to the edge. Some chunks of concrete are the height of a three-story building.
The search-and-rescue mission is expected to last for days, Emanuele Gissi, an engineer with the country’s fire service, told state broadcaster RAI News 24. Gissi said several people remain missing.
Teams with rescue dogs are aiding the effort.
Angelo Borrelli, head of the Italian Civil Protection Agency, said about 30 vehicles and several heavy-duty trucks were on the affected section of the Morandi Bridge, which lies to the west of the port city of Genoa, when it gave way.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said 22 people are dead and another 16 people were injured, nine of them in serious condition. Separately, the office of the governor of the Liguria region said 26 people have died. Genoa officials declared two days of mourning.
According to police, violent storms were partly to blame for the disaster. Maintenance work also was underway at the time to consolidate parts of the bridge, according to motorway operator Autostrade. A bridge crane had been installed to allow the work to be carried out, the operator said in a statement.
“The works and the status of the viaduct were subject to constant observation and supervision,” the statement said. “The causes for the collapse will be the object of an in-depth analysis as soon as it will be possible to safely access the site.”
Conte said authorities were working on the theory the collapse was due to a “structural failure.”
The number of casualties is expected to grow as the rubble is removed, Borrelli said, but it is unlikely that anyone was underneath the bridge at the time of the collapse, he added.
Some 440 people have had to abandon their homes following the collapse of the bridge, the mayor of Genoa’s office said in a statement. Eleven buildings had to be evacuated and the number of people and buildings evacuated could rise as risk assessments are ongoing.