Italian officials received prior warnings of catastrophic bridge collapse in Genoa
Allison Smith and Marc Wells
20 September 2018
In the month since the August 14 collapse of Genoa’s Morandi Bridge, it has become clear that there were repeated warnings about the dangerous decay of the bridge’s structural integrity. Although minor repairs were carried out, calls from engineers and other experts for major repairs and the decommissioning of the structure were ignored by the private operator and the government.
The most recent warning came in October 2017, when Carmelo Gentile, a structural engineering professor at the Politecnico di Milano, sent results of structural integrity tests to Autostrade per l’Italia, the bridge operator, and the central government’s highways agency. Gentile warned of troubling signs of corrosion or other possible damage to the southern bridge supports.
These supports ultimately failed and collapsed a portion of the bridge, killing 43 people and making 150 residents homeless. In all, more than 600 homes were destroyed by the collapse. Countless more people rely on the major throughway in and out of Genoa.
In an interview with the New York Times published on September 6, professor Gentile commented, “Probably they [highway officials and Autostrade] underestimated the importance of the information.”
Autostrade responded with a statement this month claiming professor Gentile’s suggestions were included in a proposal to retrofit the viaduct that was approved in June, and the company blames the Ministry of Infrastructure for months of delays in authorizing the work.
The potential for a total collapse has been well documented, going all the way back to a 1979 report by the bridge’s architect Riccardo Morandi, recommending constant…