GENOA, Italy (AP) — With a rainbow as a backdrop, Italy's president and other dignitaries inaugurated a replacement bridge Monday in Genoa, but the families of those killed when the Morandi Bridge collapsed boycotted the event along with the firefighters who pulled many of the 43 dead from smashed cars and trucks.
Two years ago this month, a stretch of the Morandi Bridge suddenly gave way in a violent rainstorm, sending vehicles plunging to the dry riverbed below. The new bridge — a key artery for the northwestern Italian port city — was erected thanks to round-the-clock construction, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rain drenched the new bridge just before the ceremony, which started with national anthem and a recitation of the names of the dead. But shortly before the ceremony, the downpour ended and a rainbow arched over a nearby hillside.
The families of the dead agreed to meet with President Sergio Mattarella privately before the event but announced they were skipping the ceremony. They’re angry not with him but upset that the company which maintained Morandi Bridge will still run the new bridge for a while more, since poor maintenance is being investigated as a possible cause of the collapse.
“No one can give us back our dead,'' Egle Possetti, who leads an association of the bridge victims' families, told Sky TG24.
Possetti, who lost a sister and other family members in the collapse, said she hoped attention would stay focused on the ongoing criminal investigation into the collapse.
Firefighters who battled clouds of debris dust to extract survivors and bodies from tons of twisted metal also decided to boycott the ceremony in solidarity with the families, Sky said.
Prosecutors are probing what caused Morandi Bridge to collapse on Aug. 14, 2018, on the eve of Italy's biggest summer holiday.
Riccardo Morandi, the engineer who designed the bridge that was built in the 1960s, had recommended continual maintenance to remove rust, especially from the corrosive effect of sea air in the Mediterranean port city, and from pollution's toll on concrete. Prosecutors have said they are investigating to see if proper maintenance was consistently carried out over the years on the heavily used span.
Earlier this summer, the Italian government forged a deal in which the Benetton fashion family agreed to exit Autostrade per l'Italia, the company that manages and maintains many of Italy's highways and bridges. Its highway concession had included Morandi Bridge. But that exit will take some time, as Autostrade becomes a public company under the deal and pays 3.4 billion euros ($4 billion) in compensation.
Designing the new span was Genoa native, Renzo Piano, a renowned architect. The design aims to evoke a ship’s bow to honor the city's proud sea-faring history and has 43 lamps in memory of the dead.
Traffic will start crossing the new San Giorgio Bridge, named after St. George, on Wednesday.
D'Emilio reported from Rome.