GENOA, Italy (AP) - Italy's president headed to Genoa for an evening ceremony Monday to inaugurate a replacement bridge, but the families of those killed when the Morandi Bridge collapsed are boycotting the event, along with the firefighters who had to pull the dead from the debris.
Two years ago this month, a stretch of roadbed collapsed on the city's Morandi Bridge, sending cars and trucks plunging down to the dry riverbed below and killing 43 people. The new bridge - a key artery for the northern Italian city - was built with round-the-clock construction, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Families of the dead agreed to meet the president on the sidelines but they won't participate in the ceremony. They're angry that the company which maintained Morandi Bridge will still run the new bridge for a while more, since poor maintenance over the years is being blamed as a factor in the collapse.
"No one can give us back our dead,'' Egle Possetti who leads an association of the bridge victims' families, told Sky TG24.
"But after the inauguration we hope" attention will turn to the ongoing criminal investigation, said Possetti, who lost a sister and several other family members in the collapse.
Firefighters who battled clouds of debris dust and tons of twisted vehicle metal to extract survivors from the bridge's debris also decided to boycott the ceremony in solidarity with the families, Sky said.
Prosecutors are probing what caused Morandi's Bridge to suddenly collapse on Aug. 14, 2018, during a violent thunderstorm as Italians headed on vacation before nation's biggest summer holiday.
The engineer who designed Morandi Bridge, constructed 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. But the structural collapse raised sharp questions about how good the maintenance program was.
Earlier this summer, after two years of fierce political debate, the Italian government forged a deal in which the Benetton fashion family agreed to exit Autostrada per ltalia, the company that manages and maintains most of Italy's highways and bridges. That highway concession had included Morandi Bridge. But that exit will take 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 in a city with a proud sea-faring history. The new span is also studded with 43 lamps in memory of the dead.
Later this week, traffic will start crossing the new San Giorgio Bridge, a vital link from Genoa to Milan and to parts of a highway system which leads to France and coastal resorts. A system of robots will move under the span to keep monitoring its condition.
The bridge is named after St. George, who is very popular with many Genovese.
To build the bridge, several apartment buildings that had been constructed under the old span were demolished and the remnants of Morandi Bridge were obliterated with a planned explosion.