A motorway bridge has collapsed in the northwest Italian city of Genoa and fire brigade sources say 35 people were believed killed as vehicles plummeted to the ground.
Dramatic video footage captured the moment of the disaster when one of the huge supporting towers crashed down during torrential rain.
Vehicles and debris fell 45m (148ft) on to rail tracks, buildings and a river.
Rescuers are trying to free people caught in crushed vehicles or rubble.
Fears that other parts of the bridge might fall have prompted the evacuation of buildings in the area, a rescuer told Italy’s Ansa news agency.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini promised that anyone found to be responsible for the bridge collapse would be held to account.
“I have crossed that bridge hundreds of times,” he said. “Now, as an Italian citizen, I will do everything to get the names and surnames of the managers responsible, past and present, because it is unacceptable to die like that in Italy.”
- What could have made the bridge collapse?
- How the Genoa bridge disaster unfolded
- In pictures: Deadly Italy bridge collapse
A representative of the motorway’s operator, Autostrade, told Reuters news agency there had been “no reason to consider the bridge was dangerous”.
Shares in Atlantia, Autostrade’s parent company which runs much of the country’s motorways, fell 6.3% after news of the collapse.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is due to visit the scene to support the search-and-rescue effort and show solidarity with the victims and their families, his office said.
How did the structure collapse?
It fell around 11:30 local time (09:30 GMT) during heavy rain. Police reported a violent cloudburst.
“We saw lightning strike the bridge,” eyewitness Pietro M all’Asa was quoted as saying by Ansa. “And we saw the bridge going down.”
Engineers say it is too early to determine the cause of the collapse but that lightning is unlikely to be the reason.
Another witness, unnamed, recalled: “We heard an incredible roar and first we thought it was thunder very close by.
“We live about 5km [three miles] from the bridge but we heard a crazy bang… We were very scared… Traffic went completely haywire and the city was paralysed.”
One image posted by the regional emergency services shows a truck perched at the end of the surviving bridge section immediately before the drop.
What do we know of the victims?
The official death toll was given as 22 on Tuesday evening by the governor of Liguria region, Giovanni Toti, but he warned the number would “certainly rise significantly”.
Fire brigade sources old Ansa that 35 people were dead and 12 missing, with 440 displaced.
A child is among the dead, said the head of the civil defence agency, Angelo Borrelli.
Between 30 and 35 cars and three heavy vehicles were on the bridge at the time of the collapse, he said.
The full horror of the collapse could be seen in aerial video of the scene
Patrick Villardry, a French firefighter who came from Nice to help the rescue effort, told AFP news agency the task was huge.
“The first victims have been evacuated and now we have to search under the wreckage of buildings, but there are thousands of tonnes of concrete,” he said.
How important is the bridge?
The Morandi Bridge, built in the 1960s, stands on the A10 toll motorway, which serves the Italian Riviera and southern coast of France.
The missing section was dozens of metres in length, and ran across the span of the Polcevera river.
Its collapse of the bridge was an “incident of vast proportions on a vital arterial road, not just for Genoa, but for the whole country”, said the governor of the Liguria region, Giovanni Toti.
“The Morandi bridge connects three major ports in our country, used by tens, even hundreds of thousands of people. They depart from these ports on holiday. These docks receive most of our country’s imported goods. It damages the very structure of the Italian logistics system. We are expecting a very fast response from the government.”
Mr Borrelli said the authorities were trying to arrange help for those affected by the disaster, as well as setting up diversions for traffic.
“What we are carrying out at the moment is a search and rescue operation for the victims and the injured, to get the victims out and recover the injured,” he said.
“Then we are obviously also trying to work out how to set up a viable route that is an alternative to the motorway, and also for entry and exit from the port.”
How has the world reacted?
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted a message of sympathy to the people of Italy, writing in both Italian and French. He said France was ready to offer any necessary aid.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker voiced his “deepest sympathy and sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who have died, and to the Italian people”.
Were there any concerns about the bridge?
“It’s not acceptable that such an important bridge… was not built to avoid this kind of collapse,” Mr Rixi was quoted as saying by Reuters.
However, Stefano Marigliani, the Autostrade official responsible for the Genoa area, told the agency that the bridge had been “constantly monitored and supervised well beyond what the law required”.
The highway operator said work to shore up its foundation was being carried out at the time of the collapse.
Restructuring work on the bridge was carried out in 2016, Reuters reports.
Italy’s recently installed government has pledged to increase public investment in infrastructure.
The country spent more than €14bn (£12.5bn; $16bn) on its roads in 2006 but that had dropped to less than €4bn by 2010, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The figures cover spending on new transport construction and the improvement of the existing networks.
Spending started to increase in 2013, when total spend was less than Spain, Germany, France and the UK. – BBC