Building new and maintaining existing infrastructures is a crucial element that determines a nation’s growth and development. Every developing country thrives to build long-lasting infrastructure that helps them achieve economic boom. Maintaining these structures is vital as well, as they serve as the backbone for transportation and connectivity. On 14th August, 2018, a freak accident occurred in Genoa, Italy; that witnessed the collapse of a section of the Morandi Bridge, killing at least 39 people in the process.
At around noon, as the region was experiencing bad weather and torrential rainfall, the central section of the bridge spanning 200m collapsed 50m vertically into the ground below. The 1,182 m Morandi Bridge, designed by architect Riccardo Morandi and inaugurated in 1967, was known as Italy’s Brooklyn Bridge. It served as the backbone of the region’s connectivity, transporting one vehicle per second on a daily average. As the section of the bridge collapsed, it brought down several vehicles that were on that particular stretch.
Following the collapse, firefighters and local authorities rushed to the scene to remove the rubble in hopes of saving lives. While around 12 people were found injured, at least 39 were spotted dead on impact. Hundreds of people residing near the two remaining sections of the bridge were asked to evacuate out of fear of the whole structure collapsing.
Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, has declared a 12-month state of emergency in the Liguria region in response to the incident. He also proposed making $5.7 million available from central funds to rebuild the structure and aid the families of the deceased.
The incident has sparked a national debate on the failure of both public and private organizations in ensuring the maintenance of its infrastructure. According to data by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, investment and maintenance spending on Italian transport infrastructure fell by 58% between 2008 and 2015. While the European Commission (EU) approved a $9.6 billion investment plan for Italian motorways, including in the Genoa region, Italy had shown a lack of initiative in prioritizing infrastructure maintenance on its agenda.
The Italian government, known for its rampant corruption and gross negligence, has diverted the attention to the private organization, Autostrade per l’Italia. They were responsible for maintaining the bridge and operating the toll booth at its ends. Several government authorities have asked the CEO of the company to resign. However, the company maintains that it has followed up on checking the bridge regularly for faults and have spent over $1.2 billion during 2012-2017 to maintain and upgrade its road network spanning 3,000 km.
The exact cause of the bridge’s collapse is still being investigated. Some reports have claimed that they witnessed a lighting hit the bridge right before its collapse. However, Gianni Royer Carfagni, a professor at Parma University’s engineering and architecture department, states that, “For a collapse of this type, the most likely hypothesis is that one of the stay-cables, those inclined elements linking the pillar’s summit to the horizontal structure, gave in, producing a domino effect.” Previously, several reports have been published that demonstrated the ongoing signs of fatigue in the Morandi bridge.
While the bridge is to be entirely demolished, Italy is set to receive $2.8 billion in European Funds to invest in network infrastructure. While these measures might help mitigate aspects of the issue temporality, a change in government mindset is required to ensure such negligence doesn’t occur in the future.