A bridge on a main highway linking Italy with France collapsed in the Italian port city of Genoa during a sudden, violent storm, sending vehicles plunging 90 meters (nearly 300 feet) into a heap of rubble below.
The cause of the collapse is not yet known, but many residents are calling on the head of the company that operated the bridge to resign. "Miracles can happen", he said. "And so today, we have one of the biggest dealers in Europe telling us that the bridge was safe and there was no worry of it collapsing".
Colin Caprani, senior lecturer in structural engineering at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, said bridges "are not set-and-forget pieces of infrastructure", arguing that as the structures age, collapses like the Morandi bridge are likely to become more common occurrences.
There was torrential rainfall at the time, and a huge tower and sections of the bridge - measuring about 200m - collapsed on to railway lines, a river and a warehouse.
AN Oxfordshire couple have spoken of their narrow escape after being caught up in the Italian bridge collapse which killed at least 39 people.
"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.
Pictures also posted by the family show them among the crowds taking cover in a nearby tunnel having run to safety away from the area which collapsed.
Conte said it had been responsible for ensuring safety on the bridge and the government would not await the outcome of a current criminal investigation into the disaster before taking action.
Rescuers spent the night searching the tangled remains of the bridge under floodlights and there are fears the toll could rise in what the Italian government has called an "immense tragedy".
Pope Francis also sent his condolences to the victims, saying the tragedy has "caused desperation among the population", at a service for the feast of the Assumption.
The bridge has been riddled with structural problems since its construction, which has led to expensive maintenance and severe criticism from engineering experts.
Italy's deputy prime minister, Luigi Di Maio, said in a Facebook post on August 15, "Those responsible for the tragedy in Genoa have a name and a surname, and they're called Autostrade per l'Italia".
"Fifty years ago, we had unlimited confidence in reinforced concrete, we thought it was eternal, but now we know that it only lasted a few decades", Diego Zoppi, former president of the Genoa branch of the order of architects, told reporters on Tuesday.
Autostrade said the bridge maintenance programme had been based on the results of its regular checks and had also been approved by the transport ministry.
"Many of the bridges of the developed nations are at the end of their design lives", he said.
"Autostrade per l'Italia was not able to fulfill its obligations under the contract regulating management of this infrastructure", Danilo Toninelli said on RAI 1 state TV, adding that he would also seek to levy heavy fines against the company. A local industry confederation official spoke of the collapse of the Morandi bridge "in 10 years".
Raw video: Emergency workers in Genoa, Italy, clear debris and wrecked vehicles from the scene of the collapse.
Genoa captain Domenico Criscito has revealed he was on the Morandi Bridge shortly before it collapsed. "Autostrade should have done maintenance and didn't do it", he alleged.
Italy has declared a 12-month state of emergency after a bridge collapse in Genoa killed almost 40 people.
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