Feature: One year after Morandi Bridge's collapse, locals still mourning losses

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ROME, Aug. 13 (Xinhua) -- Almost one year after the collapse of Morandi bridge in the north Italian city of Genoa, local people are still picking up the pieces as they prepare to mourn lost family and friends amid the slow reconstruction of what had been the city's most important bridge.

The central span of the Morandi bridge in the north Italian city of Genoa buckled and then collapsed on August 14 last year, at precisely 11:36 a.m. local time, sending three trucks and at least 30 cars into the riverbed and train tracks 45 meters (130 feet) below. By the time the dust settled, 43 people were dead.

"I invite everyone in Genoa to participate in the ceremony in memory of the victims of the Morandi Bridge collapse," Genoa mayor Marco Bucci said this week via social media. "To those who cannot participate, I ask you to observe a moment of silent reflection at 11:36, no matter where they may be."

Giovanni Toti, head of the region of Liguria, which includes Genoa, encouraged locals to look toward the future.

"From this point, we will not focus on the past," said Toti, who famously compared the aftermath of the collapse to war-torn Iraq, which he experienced as a journalist. "We will only talk about the reconstruction of the bridge, which has already begun."

Toti promised that the replacement for the bridge, located just north of the collapsed viaduct, would be in operation in early 2020.

The collapse was one of the biggest infrastructure disasters in modern Italian history. In addition to the death toll, the collapse removed part of the city's skyline and, as one of the city's main arteries connecting the city to its airport and to a highway heading north toward France, left it isolated from much of the rest of the country. Officially, the investigation into the cause of the collapse is still open.

Planners, engineers, and architects, and government officials studied options on how to move forward, a process that was slowed by political considerations. The remaining sections of the bridge were not destroyed until June 28 of this year, more than ten months after the deadly collapse. A year after the tragedy, media reports indicate that trucks are still hauling away rubble.

But the bridge has still left a lasting impact: Italian Minister of Transport Danilo Toninelli said that in the wake of the tragedy, the government's strategy for awarding concessions to build and maintain roads, highways and bridges would be changed to focus more on safety. Toninelli also said the collapse sparked inspections of existing transportation infrastructure for safety all across the country.

"We have already checked 2,000 kilometers of road," Toninelli said. "Now we have to get to work on the remaining 4,000 kilometers."

The tragedy a year ago sparked widespread debate over the poor state of the country's infrastructure that is ongoing. Despite the inspections Toninelli spoke about, analysts have said too little is being done at least in part due to financial concerns. That is unlikely to change, with the Italian government about to lock horns with the European Commission over government spending. Enditem

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