With a rainbow as a backdrop, Italy’s president inaugurated a replacement bridge Monday in Genoa, but 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 structure — 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, stopping just before the ceremony which started with a recitation of the names of the dead.
“We are suspended between grief” over the tragedy and “pride for the construction of the new bridge,” its renowned architect, Renzo Piano, told his fellow Genoese in a speech.
Piano said he decided to give the new San Giorgio Bridge a low-key architectural style as if the span “is asking permission” to cross the river.
The families of the dead agreed to meet with President Sergio Mattarella privately but announced they were skipping the actual ceremony. They’re upset that the company which maintained Morandi Bridge will still run the new structure for a while more — even though 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.
During the ceremony, Mayor Marco Bucci had words for those who lost loved ones in the collapse. “Our message to them is very simple. This must never happen again,” the mayor said.
Nine Italian air force jets flew in formation over the bridge, trailing smoke in the red, white and green colors of the country’s flag.
Firefighters who battled to extract survivors and bodies from tons of twisted metal also decided to boycott the ceremony in solidarity with the families, Sky TG24 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 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 pollution’s toll on concrete. Prosecutors have said they are investigating to see whether 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.
Piano designed the bridge to evoke a ship’s bows, to honor the city’s proud maritime history. The span has 43 lamps in memory of the dead.
Traffic will start crossing San Giorgio Bridge, named after St. George, a saint popular in Genoa, on Wednesday.