Italy's government attacks Benetton family over Genoa bridge collapse

Rescue workers worked among the debris

Luca Zennaro ANSA via AP Rescue workers worked among the debris

The statement goes on to say that "a bridge-crane was installed to allow maintenance works to be carried out" adding that, "the work and status of the viaduct were subject to constant observation and supervision" by their Genoa division.

Part of the Morandi bridge collapsed during a heavy storm in the northern port city on Tuesday, sending about 35 cars and several trucks plunging 45 metres onto railway tracks below.

More than 400 people have been evacuated from the area.

Shares in the operator of the section of motorway that collapsed in Genoa slumped as much as 24%, wiping more than €4.6bn (£4.1bn) off its value. "The causes for the collapse will be the subject of an in-depth analysis as soon as it is possible to safely access the site".

The A10 motorway on which the collapsed bridge lies is part of the trans-European transport network, a development plan for infrastructure drawn up in response to the 2008 EU road safety directive, the European Commission's Spahr said.

"I've had some time to calm down and am now trying to understand what happened, but my wife and our friends are very shocked", Pierami said.

Local residents had also long complained the bridge was unsafe.

The European Commission has rebuked Italy's deputy premier Matteo Salvini's comments on EU "constraints" related to the Genoa bridge disaster.

It has said it made regular and thorough safety checks on the 1.2km-long bridge, completed in 1967 and overhauled two years ago.

The debate continued and in December 2012, it was brought up in a public hearing of the Genoa City Council.

One expert, Antonio Brencich at the University of Genoa, had previously called the bridge "a failure of engineering".

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It also said it's already assessing how to rebuild the bridge. The tender provided for a strengthening of the bridge's pier cables, including those of pier nine, the one that collapsed on Tuesday.

Conte said: "It's too early to talk about the causes and hypothesis, but one thing is certain, a tragedy of this kind can not be repeated".

Conte also announced after a cabinet meeting Wednesday that a national day of mourning was being planned. He called the tragedy "unacceptable in a modern society" and vowed to work so similar events won't happen again.

Autostrade del Italia, the privately-owned company that had the contract for maintenance of the A10 motorway, said in a statement that "work was underway to shore up the foundations of the viaduct and that, as planned, a auto bridge had been installed to allow maintenance activities to be carried out".

The highways firm defended its maintenance record, saying it had checked the bridge every three months using highly specialised techniques.

Among the victims was a young family of three, travelling to Sardinia with their eight-year-old son, their auto packed with beach toys.

Some that plunged down with the bridge managed to escape unscathed, including a former goalkeeper for Italian Serie A club Cagliari.

His auto fell 30m in the collapse, but came to rest in a pocket between the columns and survived. I don't know how my vehicle wasn't crushed. "It seemed like a scene from a film, it was the apocalypse", the shaken 33-year-old added.

Valentina Galbusera, 43, a doctor, told La Stampa: "The bridge fell in front of me, not even 20m away, I avoided the collapse by only a couple of seconds".

Pope Francis has led prayers for the victims in St Peter's Square, saying: "I am especially thinking of all those tried by the tragedy in Genoa yesterday, which caused victims and a sense of loss in the population".

"I have given mandate to my ministry to start all proceedings to apply the agreement, that is to revoke the concession from these companies and seek significant sanctions".

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