The toll-road operator that manages a highway bridge that collapsed in northwest Italy has approved more than half a billion dollars in initial funding to help those affected by the disaster and to pay for a new steel bridge.
Autostrade per l’Italia’s board members agreed on an initial list of proposed, self-funded initiatives to the tune of an estimated 500 million euros ($572 million) during a meeting Tuesday. Their commitment comes one week after a vast section of the Morandi Bridge, in the port city of Genoa, buckled, killing at least 43 people. The bridge, which connects highway traffic between Italy and France, collapsed on the eve of Ferragosto, a major summer holiday in Italy.
The plan, pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation into the collapse, includes rebuilding the bridge "in steel according to the most modern technologies," which the board says can be done in about eight months, as well as bankrolling the construction of alternative roadways to mitigate traffic for the time being and establishing funds to support victims' families and displaced residents.
Autostrade per l’Italia’s parent company, Atlantia, said in a press release Wednesday that "these measures have Atlantia's full support."
However, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told the Milan daily newspaper Corriere della Sera that the amount of money the firm is offering in reconstruction and compensation costs is simply not enough.
"The sum allocated is modest compared to their profits," Conte said. "They could quadruple or quintuple that."
Autostrade per l’Italia, which is given government contracts to run Italy's toll highways, is the largest private company of its kind in the European country.
Investigators are still trying to determine why the bridge collapsed, but design flaws and poor maintenance are suspected to be the causes.
The Italian cabinet last Wednesday declared a 12-month state of emergency for Genoa, with Conte calling the bridge's collapse "unacceptable in modern society."
Buildings beneath the bridge were damaged in the collapse and authorities are concerned that what's left of the massive structure could crumble. Hundreds of people were forced to evacuate their homes below the structure.
Prosecutors in Genoa told reporters on Tuesday that they were ready to order the destruction of the remaining structure if fire services said there was "concrete danger."