Twenty people have been killed after a bridge on a main road linking Italy with France collapsed in Genoa during a storm, sending vehicles plunging nearly 150ft into a heap of rubble below.
A huge section of the Morandi Bridge collapsed over an industrial zone in the north-west Italian port city, sending tonnes of twisted steel and concrete debris onto warehouses below.
An official at Italy’s civil protection agency confirmed the death toll stands at 20, with another 16 people hurt.
Luigi D’Angelo warned that the figure could climb, as 10 of the 16 are critically ill.
The head of intensive care at the San Martino hospital in Genoa, Angelo Gratarola, told Sky TG24 that the injuries include multiple traumas.
Officials said earlier that between 30 and 35 cars and three heavy trucks were caught up as a 260ft stretch of the bridge collapsed.
Highway engineers are checking the safety of the bridge at other points, and some areas are being evacuated as a precaution.
Italian transport minister Danilo Toninelli said the collapse of the bridge was “unacceptable”, and added that if negligence played a role, then “whoever made a mistake must pay”.
He said the company which had the concession to operate the section of highway including the bridge said that no maintenance work was under way at the time of the collapse and that maintenance work was up-to-date.
However, Mr Toninelli added they were about to launch a 20 million euro (£17.8 million) bidding process for significant safety work on the bridge.
Mr Toninelli added “there has not been sufficient maintenance and checks, and safety work for many bridges and viaducts and bridges in Italy constructed, almost all, during the 1960s”.
Video captured the sound of a man screaming: “Oh God! Oh, God!” Other images showed a green truck which stopped just short of the gaping hole in the bridge, and the tyres of a tractor among the rubble.
Firefighters said they were worried about gas pipes exploding in the area as a result of the collapse.
The ANSA news agency said authorities suspected a structural weakness had caused the collapse, although there was no immediate explanation for what had happened.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will travel to Genoa later.
Interior minister Matteo Salvini said some 200 firefighters were responding to the accident.
He said on Twitter: “We are following minute by minute the situation of the bridge collapse in Genoa.”
The disaster occurred on a major road that connects Italy to France, and links northern cities like Milan to the beaches of Liguria.
It came on the eve of a major Italian holiday called Ferragosto, which marks the religious feast of the Assumption of Mary.
The day marks the high point of the country’s summer holiday season when most cities and businesses are closed and Italians head to the beaches or the mountains, meaning traffic was heavier than usual on the Genoa highway.
The Morandi Bridge is a main thoroughfare connecting the A10 highway that heads for France and the A7 route that continues north towards Milan. Inaugurated in 1967, it is 148ft high, and around half a mile long.
The collapse of the bridge comes eight days after another major accident on an Italian highway, near the northern city of Bologna.
In that case, a tanker truck carrying a highly flammable gas exploded after rear-ending a stopped truck on the road before it was hit from behind itself. The accident killed one person, injured dozens and blew apart a section of a raised eight-lane highway.