France opens death inquiry into Italy bridge disaster

The Morandi bridge collapsed during heavy rainfall, with at least 39 people confirmed dead

France has opened an inquiry into “involuntary homicide” after it emerged that at least four French nationals have died in the collapse of the Morandi motorway bridge in Genoa, Italy.

So far, 39 people are known to have died and 15 injured in the disaster, which saw a section of a motorway bridge collapse on August 14. Four French nationals from Occitanie are among the dead.

Unknown numbers of other people are still missing, according to the Italian authorities.

Prosecutors in Paris announced the opening of an inquiry to investigate “involuntary injury” and “involuntary homicide”, with the investigation responsibility passed to the gendarmerie at the DGGN (Direction générale de la gendarmerie nationale).

Carole Delga, president of the Occitanie region, said: “We are in contact with the Italian authorities to determine if there could be other French nationals among the victims.”

Questions are also being asked over the safety of bridges in France following the collapse.

A recent report from the minister of Transport - undertaken before the Italy disaster - suggested that of 12,000 bridges in France, almost a third could benefit from repair work.

Around 7% of bridges in France had serious damage that could lead to collapse in the long term, the report added.

Since 1978 - when a bridge collapsed in Tours - the law in France has required bridges to undergo an annual safety check, and a complete inspection every three years.

Budget cuts between 2010 and 2015 have been blamed for a backlog in inspections.

Indeed, a partial collapse of the Gennevilliers bridge in Hauts-de-Seine in May 2018 caused the A15 road to be closed for several weeks - although no-one was injured or killed.

Now, €100 million of extra funds are now said to have been invested in the bridge network in France.

A recent statement from the minister for Transport disputed the risk of any danger. It said: “There is no risk of a bridge collapsing today in France.”

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