At least 38 killed following bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy, during violent thunderstorm

By Eric Leister, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
August 16, 2018, 2:01:08 PM EDT

The Italian news agency ANSA reported that a large section of a raised highway collapsed in the northern port city of Genoa on Tuesday. The collapse occurred around noon, local time.

The cause of the collapse remains unclear; however, thunderstorms were affecting the city at the time of the collapse.

Italy Bridge AP2 8/14

This photo released by the Italian firefighters, rescuers work among the rubble of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. (Vigili Del Fuoco via AP)

Wind gusts of 50-65 km/h (30-40 mph) were reported in the area around the time of the collapse. Some witnesses claim to have seen lightning strike the bridge prior to the collapse.

The latest reports from ANSA indicate that at least 38 people were killed from the collapse with 15 others injured.

No other bodies have been identified or recovered as of Thursday; however, there are reports of 10-20 people still missing.

Italy Bridge AP3 8/14

This photo released by the Italian firefighters, rescuers work among the rubble of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. (Vigili Del Fuoco via AP)

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte declared a state of emergency in the region on Wednesday.

Video and photographs showed a large section of the raised highway missing following the collapse, which resulted in automobiles and debris falling 45 meters (150 feet) onto businesses and roads below.

Italy Highway 8/14

This photo released by the Italian firefighters, shows a truck stopped where the Morandi highway bridge collapsed in Genoa, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. Italian authorities say that about 10 vehicles were involved when the raised highway collapsed during a sudden and violent storm in the northern port city of Genoa, while private broadcaster Sky TG24 said the collapsed section was about 200-meter long (650 feet). (Vigili Del Fuoco via AP)

Some of the debris is also clogging the Polcevera River, which the bridged spanned. Giovanni Toti, president of the Liguria region, stressed the importance of clearing that debris to prevent the river from flooding after any heavy rainfall, according to the New York Times.

Rescue and recovery crews will continue to benefit from dry weather into Friday morning with warm days and mild nights.

A shower or thunderstorm may impact the area from Friday afternoon into Saturday.

"Widespread heavy rain is not anticipated during this time," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said.

"There can be widely separated totals of 13-25 mm (0.50 to an inch) in the neighboring mountains with lighter amounts in Genoa," she said.

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Officials told the New York Times there were about 40 vehicles on the bridge when it collapsed.

A total of 632 people living around the bridge have been displaced from their homes, which are expected to be demolished, according to ANSA.

A 2011 report by Italian highways company Autostrade per l'Italia said that the bridge that collapsed in Genoa on Tuesday was suffering from decay.

"It was 50 years old and had been through many storms; my guess is that [weather] didn’t have a factor in this case, because we have big storms all the time, and they don’t bring down bridges," Dr. Michael Chajes, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Delaware, told AccuWeather.

"The big issue that I see in this case, and it relates to design in general, is a term we call redundancy," Chajes said. "It really is a matter of having backup systems in your design."

Restructuring work was completed on the bridge in 2016 and additional work was ongoing to shore up its foundation at the time of the collapse, according to Reuters.

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