Italy’s governing populist party wrote off safety fears about the motorway bridge that collapsed on Tuesday killing dozens of people as a children’s “fairy story”, it has emerged.
The Five Star Movement (M5S) has been leading the country’s government since earlier this year. M5S has made political capital out of opposing major construction and infrastructure projects, which often draw opposition in Italy because they can be disruptive to residents.
In 2013 a statement on the party’s website described warnings of “the imminent collapse of the Morandi Bridge” as a “favoletta”. This is an Italian word meaning a children’s fantasy tale or fairy story. The bridge collapsed on 14 August, killing at least 39 people and severing the country’s A10 motorway.
The statement has since been deleted from the party’s website, but a cached version is still visible online. It was drawn up in opposition to the “Gronda di Genova”, a major infrastructure project to improve the motorways in the city region that included work on the now collapsed bridge.
Some architects and engineers had warned that the bridge, built by Italian civil engineer Riccardo Morandi in the 1960s, suffered from fatal design flaws; reinforcement work was carried out on it in 2016 in an attempt to shore it up. A complete rebuild was not carried out to avoid disruption, however.
The statement on the M5S website accuses the regional president who backed the reinforcement work of not having read a public inquiry report into the state of the bridge, and says the party “asks ourselves what credibility those who support the great works can still have”.
Improvements to the bridge were also included by the M5S on a list of infrastructure projects which could be scrapped subject to a review of the costs and benefits.
As of 15 August, around 250 firefighters from around Italy were still searching through the rubble of the bridge for survivors, with concern that the death toll could still rise further.