Bridges are the great symbols of human connection. They suggest a certain animal pride in the human race, a technological capacity to trick, and even subordinate nature. Across ravines, rivers and bodies of space, the bridge suggests the raising and linking of the miraculous, a suspension that facilitates contact and speed. They also suggest power, triumph, and continuity.
Little wonder then, that such disasters as the collapse of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa on August 14 cripple pride and shock the senses. On this occasion, nature was not going to be tricked. A storm did its work, and duly brought down a 100 metre section of the viaduct, inaugurated in 1967, with ferociously lethal consequences. Decades of maintenance had failed to stem the fall, and 35 cars and heavier vehicles plummeted some 45 metres below. This beast of Italian structural engineering was gone.
Almost 40 people are dead, several lie in critical condition and more bodies promise to be found. In the words of fire fighter Stefano Zanut, “We are trying to find points where we can penetrate these incredibly heavy slabs. Then the earthmoving equipment moves in to create a passageway where dogs can enter.”
The Italian government duly blamed the operator of the viaduct, Autostrade per l’Italia, promising mild retribution in the form of stripping contracts and revoking operating licenses. “It is the company that holds the license who is responsible for maintenance and safety,”…