Italy marks anniversary of bridge collapse amid political crisis

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People pay tribute with flowers and banner to bridge collapse victims, marking the first anniversary of Morandi bridge collapse in which 43 people died, in Genoa
People pay tribute with flowers and banner to bridge collapse victims, marking the first anniversary of Morandi bridge collapse in which 43 people died, in Genoa, Italy, August 13,2019. REUTERS/Massimo Pinca

August 14, 2019

GENOA, Italy (Reuters) – Italy’s warring political leaders suspended hostilities on Wednesday, gathering in the port city of Genoa to mark the first anniversary of a bridge collapse that killed 43 people.

Despite a political crisis in Rome, Italy’s head of state, President Sergio Mattarella, and party leaders met for a Catholic mass at the site of the disaster, held in a derelict warehouse near rubble left over from the now-demolished bridge.

On August 14 last year, a large section of the 1.2 km-long (1,100-yard) motorway viaduct, built in the 1960s with reinforced concrete, collapsed in heavy rain, sending cars and trucks plummeting about 50 meters to the ground.

At the start of the ceremony, names of the dead were read aloud, moving some to tears as somber-faced politicians, including Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and populist Interior Minister Matteo Salvini stood in the front row.

The cause of the collapse is still under investigation, but the ruling 5-Star Movement blamed Italy’s biggest toll-road operator, infrastructure group Atlantia, for neglecting maintenance on the bridge, a charge the group denies.

Atlantia is controlled by the Benetton family, famous for its clothing retail chain.

The governing coalition of 5-Star and Salvini’s right-wing League party also used the disaster to underline its case for increased budget spending despite European Union concerns that this would add to Italy’s massive public debt burden.

The coalition is now falling apart after months of infighting, potentially dragging the nation to snap elections as early as October.

(Reporting by Francesca Landini; Editing by Mark Bendeich)

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