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Exclusive | Italy bridge ‘at risk’ of further collapse

Polcevera viaduct

The remains of the Polcevera viaduct are at risk of further collapse, according to a structural engineer involved in the rescue effort.

Luca Ponticelli, a structural engineer for Italy’s national fire brigade Corpo Nazionale dei Vigili del Fuoco, told New Civil Engineer that the remaining sections of the viaduct, more commonly known as the Morandi bridge, are unbalanced and could collapse on top of rescue workers.

This is combined with the usual rescue effort challenges of working among the vast quantity of unstable rubble from the collapsed 250m section of the motorway bridge.

“My colleagues are now working under the huge amount of unstable rubble for the rescue operation,” he said. “The problem is that the tools usually used by these teams are not able to bear the load coming from the big parts of the bridge.”

He added: “The second problem is that the … bridge is now unbalanced for the presence of a slab is only on one side.

“I’m sure that the elastic deformations on the pillar were immediately absorbed at the collapse but now new viscous or plastic deformation are progressing on the loaded side.

“So it begs the question, is the bridge able to bear this new load condition?”

A second structural engineer from the fire brigade also expressed fears that the middle tower could now be subject to deformation under the unbalanced loading condition.

Ciro Bolognese told New Civil Engineer that every precaution was being taken to protect the workers from on site construction equipment.

He said: “We are working in a safe way and controlling each movement of the crane and the machines so it’s safe for our personnel.”

A search and rescue effort is ongoing with 20 people still unaccounted for and 38 confirmed deaths.

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