Italians wonder whom to blame for Morandi Bridge collapse

A view of the collapsed Morandi bridge the day after the disaster in Genoa, Italy, 15 August 2018. People living in the buildings in the area have been evacuated following the collapse of a section of the Morandi bridge because there is a risk the other parts of the bridge could fall. The death toll for Tuesday's highway-bridge-collapse disaster has risen to 39, according to reports on 15 August, and the Italian Government will proclaim national mourning for the Genoa tragedy. EPA-EFE/LUCA ZENNARO

Autostrade, the European Commission, previous governments or even MS5


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Prime minister Giuseppe Conte called for a day of mourning on Wednesday, but Italy is now focusing on the “who is to blame” question following the collapse of the Morandi bridge.

The new government is also under scrutiny. From 2013 until recently, the website of the Euro-critical Five Star movement (MS5) dismissed warnings of an imminent collapse of the Genoa Morandi bridge as a ‘fairytale,’ DW reports.

Italy’s senior coalition government is now under pressure, as the collapse of the bridge on Tuesday claimed the lives of 39 people, and counting.

Former centre-left and centre-right governments clearly reduced spending on infrastructure over the last decade. According to the OECD, Italy reduced public spending on infrastructure by 58% between 2008 and 2015, Reuters reports.

The MS5 Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli is focusing his attacks on the operator of the Italian highways (Autostrade), which maintains 3,020 km across Italy. He is threatening with both revoking the running license and a €150 million fine.

However, the minister insists, Italy needs better maintenance rather than new infrastructure.

Autostrade responds they have invest more than €1bn a year on safety and maintenance, including the monitoring of the Morandi bridge that collapsed. The bridge, according to Autostrade – a concession belonging to the Benetton family – had been checked every three months.

The leader of the Lega and Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini targeted his criticism on Brussels, suggesting that the Italian government is not allowed to invest in infrastructure lest it passes the 3% budget deficit. Markets are seeing this as a signal that the government intends to violate the deficit rules.

The European commission responds that Italy is eligible to receive €2.5bn in funding for motorway and railway upgrades between 2014 and 2020, while up to €8.5bn could be approved for new investment in infrastructure.

In reality, Tria has been negotiating with EU officials an investment plan worth €150bn euros over 10 years, Reuters reports.

Genoa prosecutor Francesco Cozzi is focusing on the maintenance and design flaws of the 51-year-old Morandi bridge. Mechanics have pointed to the weakening of the bridge’s reinforced concrete under traffic vibrations.

The Minister of Interior, Matteo Salvini has also said that apartments built in the shadow of the structure will need to be demolished.

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