Search and rescue operation continues for Genoa bridge collapse victims, 12-month state of emergency declared

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Search and rescue operation for Italy's Genoa bridge collapse victims continues on Thursday, while Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte declared a state of emergency on Wednesday in the Liguria region, whose capital is Genoa, a day after the disastrous incident killed dozens of people.

The prime minister announced the measure late on Wednesday, following a specific request officially filed by regional authorities earlier in the day.

After a cabinet meeting was held here in the northwest Italian city of Genoa, Prime Minister Conte said the emergency state would stretch for the Liguria region, whose capital is Genoa, for the next 12 months.

"We have allocated 5 million euros (5.67 million U.S. dollars), which will be drawn from the National Emergencies Fund," he told a press conference after the meeting.

The first tranche of funds and the state of emergency would respectively help the regional government to cover the costs of the emergency and speed up bureaucratic procedures in the following phase.

In filing the state of emergency request, Liguria regional governor Giovanni Toti said the state of emergency will allow the local authorities to cover the costs of the most urgent activities.

Prime Minister Conte also announced the government was resolved to revoke the concession to private company autostrada per l'Italia managing the country's highway network, even before judicial authorities would finish their criminal inquiry into the incident.

"We will revoke the concession because there is no doubt that -- as far as the highway system is concerned -- Autostrade had the responsibility and the duty to maintain that viaduct in a way as to ensure the full safety of citizens," Conte explained.

The sudden collapse of the bridge -- which occurred a few minutes before noon on Tuesday -- was "an unacceptable tragedy in a modern society," according to the prime minister.

After the announcement, Autostrade said in a statement that it was "confident to be able to demonstrate it has always correctly fulfilled its obligations as a concessionaire."

Meanwhile, the provisional death toll remained 39 as of early on Thursday, according to the latest official account provided by Genoa's prefecture. Yet, authorities said they feared more people might be still trapped under rubble.

Some 15 wounded people were in hospital, and nine of them were in serious health conditions, the prefecture also said.

The Morandi Bridge involved in the collapse -- measuring 1,182 meters in length -- was a major viaduct between the western and the eastern part of Genoa, and a key driveway connecting two highways.

A central portion of about 100 meters of the viaduct caved in, sending 30 to 35 cars and 3 heavy trucks crashing from about 50 meters to the ground.

A huge rescue operation went on for the second night without interruption, with 380 firefighters working on the ground with cranes and heavy equipment to remove the huge concrete debris and reach the last vehicles involved in the crash.

The central government announced a national day of mourning on Aug. 18, the day in which a state funeral for the victims of the incident will be held in Genoa. 

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