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‘A Wound to the Heart of Genoa’: Italy Buries Victims of Bridge Collapse

‘A Wound to the Heart of Genoa’: Italy Buries Victims of Bridge Collapse

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Relatives mourned some of the victims of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, Italy, before the state funeral on Saturday.CreditPiero Cruciatti/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

ROME — Italy mourned those killed in the collapse of a bridge in the northern city of Genoa with a state funeral on Saturday as the country struggled to come to terms with a tragedy that government officials, families of victims and some experts say could have been prevented. But some families of the victims boycotted the event.

Flags flew at half-staff across the country on a day of national mourning. Stores shut their doors or draped black ribbons on their windows. And a solemn ceremony was held in Genoa for 19 of the victims of the Aug. 14 collapse.

The death toll rose to 40 on Saturday when one of the 10 wounded people still in hospital died and another victim was found, according to local officials. At least three people are still missing and a car matching the description of their vehicle was discovered on Saturday morning. But no bodies were found with the car.

The families of some victims shunned the funeral ceremony to protest against what they saw as a country that had betrayed their loved ones by not ensuring their safety.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the archbishop of Genoa who led the funeral ceremony, said in his homily that the collapse was “a wound to the heart of Genoa.”

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Others watched the funeral ceremony on big screens. Flags flew at half-staff across the country on a day of national mourning; and stores shut their doors or draped black ribbons on their windows.CreditSimone Arveda/EPA, via Shutterstock

“The wound is deep, created above all by the boundless pain for those who have lost their lives and for the missing, for their family members, the injured, the many who have lost their homes,” he said.

The Mass was offered in an immense pavilion that usually holds part of Genoa’s trade fair, one of the city’s principal commercial activities. The collapse of the bridge, a major artery connecting the eastern and western parts of the city, has put the city’s economy at serious risk.

The ceremony, which was broadcast live on Italian television, was interrupted by applause when Cardinal Bagnasco read the first name of each confirmed victim. Most were Italian, but others were Albanian, Chilean or French.

Dozens of firefighters attended the ceremony, and they were met with applause and handshakes, an acknowledgment of their tireless efforts — more than 100 uninterrupted hours so far — to the dead and help the wounded.

The funeral followed the Roman Catholic ritual, but the families of two Muslim victims attended and an imam led a prayer after the Catholic rite.

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The coffin of Samuele Robbiano, 8, was carried out after the state funeral. He died with his parents on the way to catch a ferry to Sardinia.CreditJack Taylor/Getty Images

He prayed that “our Genoa,” “beautiful Genoa,” would be able to lift itself up.

Cardinal Bagnasco spoke of suffering and the solidarity that the city had shown and received.

“The highway that collapsed, as is known, was not just an important piece of highway, but a necessary route for the daily life of many, an essential artery for the development of the city,” the cardinal said.

He urged the city not to give up.

“We can build new bridges and walk together,” he said.

In contrast, tempers flared on Friday in Torre del Greco, near Naples, at the funeral of four young men. The four friends in their 20s died on their way to Barcelona, Spain.

Why did they die,” asked Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the archbishop of Naples, who presided over the ceremony. “Some say this is the moment of suffering and mourning and we shouldn’t think about the causes and responsibilities,” the cardinal said in his homily.

But then he added: “It’s not right to die because of negligence, carelessness, irresponsibility, superficiality, bureaucracy or boredom.”

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President Sergio Mattarella, right, spoke to the families of the victims, huddled along a line of dark coffins.CreditAndrea Leoni/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Outside the church, friends of the young men hoisted a bedsheet scrawled with a condemnation: “There is no forgiveness without justice.”

“My son didn’t die,” Roberto Battiloro, the father of one victim, told reporters before the funeral. “He was killed, along with the others, all of them.”

Calling the deaths “absurd,” he told reporters that he would not rest until those responsible for the collapse of the bridge were found.

Another person listed among the missing had contacted relatives, the official said, calling it “the only good news.”

Luca Cari, a spokesman for Italy’s firefighters, said that their work would continue until all the rubble has been cleared. Only then would they be certain that no one else had been killed by falling debris.

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Most of the victims were Italian, but others were Albanian, Chilean or French.CreditGregorio Borgia/Associated Press

Some of Italy’s top officials, including President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, also attended the state funeral on Saturday.

Before the ceremony, Mr. Mattarella spoke to the families of the victims, huddled along a line of dark coffins. At the center was the small, white coffin of Samuele Robbiano, 8, who died with his parents on the way to catch a ferry to Sardinia.

“This tragedy that involved our entire country is unacceptable,” Mr. Mattarella said after the funeral. He added that he had pledged to support the families of the victims, the injured and the homeless; to find the causes of the collapse “rigorously and quickly” and to ensure the safety of Italy’s roads and transportation.

The government said on Friday that it would create a national databank to determine the state of all national infrastructure and that the Transportation Ministry would increase its oversight services. The companies responsible for carrying out repairs and maintenance would also be required to present detailed maintenance plans, and to invest greater sums if necessary.

Though Saturday was meant to be a day of mourning, hostilities continued between the government and Autostrade per l’Italia, which had been responsible for maintaining the highway that included the Genoa bridge.

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The government held Autostrade per l’Italia, which was responsible for maintaining the highway that included the bridge, responsible for the “grave disaster” and gave it 15 days to present its defense.CreditJack Taylor/Getty Images

The government started a formal procedure to revoke the concession held by Autostrade.

A government statement said that it held Autostrade responsible for the “grave disaster” because it had the “obligation to look after the ordinary and extraordinary maintenance of the highway.” The government said Autostrade had 15 days to present its defense.

In their first public appearance since the collapse, the company’s top executives pledged to build a new bridge in record time, and said that funds had been set aside to assist the families of the victims.

“We will do whatever we can to alleviate their suffering, and also that of Genoa, which was wounded,” Fabio Cerchiai, Autostrade’s chairman, said during a televised news conference.

Giovanni Castellucci, the company’s chief executive, said Autostrade felt for the victims and their families and would cooperate with an investigation, but stopped short of accepting responsibility for the collapse.

“The bridge,” he noted, “was considered safe for good reasons, but something happened, that’s clear.”

The company said it was willing to build a new steel bridge at the site, in about eight months, and that Autostrade was already at work on a project, “to give a response to the needs of the city.”

“We know we can give much and do much for Genoa,” Mr. Castellucci said. “We are here.”

But Luigi Di Maio, deputy prime minister, rejected the company’s overtures, writing on Facebook that the government — which on Saturday allocated more than $ 32 million to the city in emergency funds — “won’t accept charity from Autostrade.”

“We demand credible compensation, and there won’t be any trade off,” he wrote. “Apologies don’t help much and there is no way to alleviate the suffering of a city destroyed by grief.”

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A8 of the New York edition with the headline: ‘Boundless Pain’ as Italy Mourns Victims of Bridge Collapse. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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