Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has declared a 12-month state of emergency in Genoa after at least 42 people were killed when a bridge collapsed in the northern city.
In an angry public address Thursday morning (AEST), Mr Conte took aim at toll-road operator Autostrade, a unit of the Atlantia group, which operated the 51-year-old bridge as part of a stretch of the A10 motorway it manages.
The Prime Minister said the firm had been responsible for ensuring safety on the bridge and the government would not await the outcome of a criminal investigation into the disaster before taking action.
Rescuers, meanwhile, are still searching for survivors among towering slabs of concrete wreckage below the collapse.
The 50-year-old bridge gave way during torrential rain on Tuesday night (AEST), sending dozens of vehicles crashing onto a riverbed, a railway and two warehouses.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini declined to say how many people are feared missing in the wreckage, but said searchers were hopeful of finding more survivors.
Mr Salvini said he hoped the number of people still buried would be small, adding “miracles are still possible”.
Fire brigade spokesman Luca Cari said 400 firefighters were at the site, helped by cranes that cleared away large rubble and created spaces for rescue teams to check for survivors.
A witness who watched the collapse from a nearby building said the bridge was long known to have had problems.
“To see a pylon come down like papier-machè is an incredible thing,” the 37-year-old man, identified only as Ivan, told Reuters.
“It’s been a lifetime that we’ve known there were problems. It is in continual maintenance,” he said.
“In the ’90s they added some reinforcements on one part, but also underneath you can see rust.”
Autostrade maintains it undertook regular, sophisticated checks on the structure before the disaster, relying on “companies and institutions which are world leaders in testing and inspections” and that these had provided reassuring results.
“These outcomes have formed the basis for maintenance work approved by the Transport Ministry in accordance with the law and the terms of the concession agreement,” it said.
Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Danilo Toninelli said apartment buildings near the bridge have been cleared of residents and may need to be destroyed.
An estimated 630 people live in apartment buildings practically under or right next to the sections of the bridge left standing after the collapse.
By Thursday morning, the residents had all been evacuated by authorities and Mr Toninelli said in a Facebook post that ultimately the buildings might have to be destroyed.
Pope Francis earlier offered a prayer for the victims and their loved ones in a public address at St Peter’s Basilica.