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Genoa Bridge Is Demolished, Erasing An Artifact Of Deadly Collapse

Nearly a year after a long stretch of the Morandi bridge collapsed in Genoa, Italy, a demolition team blew up the structure's remaining pylons Friday morning in a spectacular sight that local leaders say will help the city heal.

The collapse last August killed 43 people. Since then, the bridge that was once an icon of the city has served mainly as a reminder of the tragedy.

Ahead of the demolition, several thousand residents were evacuated from nearby apartment buildings and officials gathered under clear, sunny skies for a ceremony to mark the bridge's destruction.

The explosions shot spikes of dust and rubble high into the air. As charges detonated along the bridge's remaining span, blasts buckled the mammoth concrete pylons, quickly sending the whole structure crashing down and covering it with a shroud of dust.

On the ground, hydrants had been opened to spray water to try to reduce the amount of dust in the air, according to Italy's La Repubblica newspaper.

"The demolition of the east stump of Ponte Morandi has symbolic value," the Liguria regional President Giovanni Toti said. "It means that this skyline that reminds us every day of the tragedy of 14 August will no longer be there and that Genoa enters its future."

It was a sign, Toti said, that Genoa is overcoming the devastating effects of the bridge collapse.

The bridge was a vital connection in Genoa, carrying the A10 highway that emerges from a long mountain tunnel in the west and runs to the port city on the Mediterranean. The roadway is a key link between France and Italy — and it was particularly busy last August, when travelers were using it to reach holiday destinations.

Spanning a dry riverbed, railroad tracks and industrial areas, the Morandi bridge was built in the 1960s. Investigators believe poor maintenance or engineering flaws may have caused it to fail. The viaduct's steel rods were found to have badly deteriorated in the seaside air.

Genoa plans to rebuild the bridge with the help of star architect Renzo Piano — a native of the city who has waived his normally steep fee to help his hometown rebuild. When Mayor Marco Bucci announced last December, he said construction would likely take 12 months.

The design for the new bridge echoes nautical elements, with pillars that are curved like a ship's bow. Its key focal point are 43 sail-like posts, to commemorate those who lost their lives when the old bridge gave way.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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