A motorway bridge has collapsed near the northwest Italian city of Genoa, sending vehicles plummeting up to 90m (295ft) to the ground and killing at least 35 people, officials say. Video footage appears to show one of the towers holding up the suspension bridge collapsing in stormy weather. According to the BBC, vehicles fell along with bridge debris on to rail tracks below.
Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli spoke of an "immense tragedy" and France has offered Italy its support.
Ian Firth, a structural engineer and specialist in bridges, said the Morandi bridge is of a very unusual design. “It is too early to say what caused the tragic collapse, but as this reinforced and pre-stressed concrete bridge has been there for 50 years, it is possible that corrosion of tendons or reinforcement may be a contributory factor," the former president of the Institution of Structural Engineers said.
Shares in Atlantia, the toll road operator which runs much of the country's motorways, fell 6.3% after news of the collapse. The bridge fell around 11:30 local time (09:30 GMT) during heavy rain. Police reported a violent cloudburst.
"It was just after 11:30 when we saw lightning strike the bridge," eyewitness Pietro M all' Asa was quoted as saying by Italy's Ansa news agency. "And we saw the bridge going down."
According to an eye witness traffic was queuing on the bridge at the time.
"It's not acceptable that such an important bridge... was not built to avoid this kind of collapse," Deputy Transport Minister Edoardo Rixi was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying from Genoa.
French President Emmanuel Macron has tweeted a message of sympathy to the people of Italy, writing in both Italian and French. He said France was ready to offer any necessary aid.
Cars and trucks were trapped in the rubble and nearby buildings damaged, according to an AFP photographer at the scene. One image posted by the regional emergency services shows a truck perched at the end of the surviving bridge section immediately before the drop.
The Morandi Bridge, built in the 1960s, stands on the A10 toll motorway, which serves the Italian Riviera and southern coast of France. The missing section was dozens of metres in length, and ran across the span of the Polcevera river.
Work to shore up the foundation of the bridge was being carried out at the time of the collapse but the structure was constantly monitored, the motorway operator was quoted as saying by Reuters.