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Italy Holds National Day of Mourning for Bridge Collapse Victims

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Italy Holds National Day of Mourning for Bridge Collapse Victims

Sabina Castelfranco, VOA News
18 August 2018 (11:00AM)

ROME — It’s Italy’s national day of mourning Saturday after the collapse of the Morandi highway bridge Tuesday in the port city of Genoa killed 42 people.

Three more bodies were recovered by rescuers overnight and Italian state radio reported another was body found Saturday morning. Authorities said all those missing have now been accounted for.

But not all the families of the victims agreed to take part.

Applause broke out at the funerals as rescuers and members of the civil defense department arrived to take part in the service. Authorities used an exhibition center in the area of the Genoa fair grounds as a church.

The building was adorned with flowers and photographs for the occasion. In front of the altar and below a large crucifix, 18 coffins were covered with white roses, including those of two Albanian Moslems who died, and a small white casket for the youngest victim, an eight-year-old who died alongside his parents.

Large screens were set up outside the exhibition center for many others - Italians from all over the country and tourists - who turned out to follow the service. Many said they came out of solidarity with relatives of the victims because what happened could have happened to anyone.

The archbishop of Genoa, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, celebrated the solemn service. Italy’s top officials and politicians, including head of state Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, attended the ceremony.

Family members of other victims decided to bury the dead in their towns of origin, some declining to participate in the state funerals in anger at having lost their loved ones in an accident that may have been caused by poor design or improper maintenance.

The president, who visited the site of the disaster and the injured in the hospital before attending the service, has defined the bridge collapse as “absurd and frightening,” saying the tragedy “struck not only Genoa but the whole nation.”

Cardinal Bagnasco, who presided at the service, said, "The collapse of the Morandi bridge over the Poncedera River caused a rift in the heart of Genoa. The wound is a deep one and consists above all of the endless pain for those who have lost their lives and the missing, for their relatives, for the inured, for the many displaced. Many have been the signs of shock and closeness that have come from not only from Italy but from all over the world.”

In his homily, the cardinal added that Genoa will not surrender and will continue to fight despite the huge loss of its most important artery. Applause broke out when the cardinal thanked firefighters for their tireless work. He spoke of the strength of the injured and expressed hope that the displaced may soon find another home.

The government has set up a commission to investigate the causes of the bridge collapse. The disaster sparked a huge debate in Italy about the state of the country’s infrastructures.

Autostrade per l'Italia, the company that manages Italy’s highway system, held a news conference Saturday in Genoa, promising it would provide details about measures it will be taking to support victims' families and the hundreds of people that had to evacuate their homes following the deadly collapse.

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