Search for survivors after Italian motorway collapse kills 26

Davide Capello a soccer player was on the motorway bridge in Genoa in Italy when it collapsed

Italian authorities have raised the death toll in the Genoa highway bridge collapse to at least 37.

Italian politicians, for their part, were trying to find who to blame for the deadly tragedy.

Rescuers hunted for survivors among huge chunks of debris on Wednesday after a bridge collapse that killed 39, as furious government ministers rounded on the viaduct's operator, saying it should pay fines and compensation and lose its concession.

Italy's far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini said he was following events in Genoa "up to the minute" and thanked the emergency services for their swift response.

The head of the Italian Civil Protection Agency, Angelo Borrelli, said about 30 vehicles and several heavy-duty trucks were on the affected section of the bridge when it gave way.

The ANSA news agency reported Mr Capello called his father while he was stuck in his auto and told him he was safe and not to worry.

The bridge, which was built between 1963 and 1967, had been beset with structural problems since its construction and had required expensive maintenance work in the past.

Some 440 people were evacuated from buildings near by.

Within hours of the disaster, the government said the collapse showed Italy needed to spend more on its dilapidated infrastructure, ignoring European Union budget constraints if necessary.

A fire service spokesperson told AFP that the bridge had mostly fallen on rail tracks 100 metres below and that cars and trucks had fallen with the rubble. And if there's no easy way to inspect them, "it's a high risk system", Agrawal said.

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"People living in Genoa use this bridge twice a day", said Deputy Transport Minister Edoardo Rixi, who is from the city.

Restructuring work was also reported to have been carried out on the bridge in 2016. "We can't live with infrastructures built in the 1950s and 1960s".

Rescuers inspect the rubble and wreckages by the Morandi motorway bridge after a section collapsed in Genoa.

"Autostrade per l'Italia was not able to fulfil its obligations under the contract regulating management of this infrastructure", Danilo Toninelli said on RAI 1 state TV, adding that he would also seek to levy heavy fines against the company.

Autostrade, a unit of infrastructure group Atlantia that is controlled by the Benetton family, manages the section of the toll highway that collapsed.

Autostrade said it would work with investigators, and that it was already assessing how to rebuild the bridge.

This technique also characterises another, even longer and just as problematic Morandi bridge: the 8.7-kilometre long General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge that spans the bay of Maracaibo, Venezuela, and was completed in 1962. "The increasing number of collapses we are seeing in recent years is likely to worsen as deterioration, and inspection and maintenance programs continue to have their budgets reduced".

The degradation may have also been compounded by heavy traffic on the bridge, which sees some 25 million vehicles every year and sits on a major artery, the A10, serving the Italian Riviera and linking northern Italy to France.

Autostrade said work to reinforce the slab under the road surface was going on at the time of the collapse.

Atlantia shares closed down more than 5%.

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