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Disaster Swiss react to Genoa bridge collapse

Ein grosses Stück Strasse liegt auf einer Ebene, im Hintergrund der Teil der Brücke, der nicht eingestürzt ist.

The Genoa bridge was erected in 1967. 

(Keystone)

Swiss President, Alain Berset, has sent his condolences to the victims of the bridge that collapsed in the Italian city of Genoa on Tuesday. Such a disaster, say Swiss experts, is “impossible” in Switzerland. 

Berset wrote, in Italian, that “numerous people lost their lives or were injured in the motorway bridge collapse in Genoa. In the name of Switzerland I send my deepest condolences to the family and friends of the victims…”. 

At least 39 people died in the accident, and several others were injured when a section of the bridge gave way around midday on Tuesday. Dozens of vehicles that were on the bridge at the time fell about 45 metres. 

A spokesman for the Swiss Federal Roads Office said such a collapse could not happen in Switzerland. 

Speaking to Swiss public television, SRF, Thomas Rohrbach, said it was his office’s task to ensure that “motorway bridges can be operated safely at all times. This means that a bridge collapse is simply impossible, even when conditions are abnormal.” 

Regular inspections

He said visual inspections are carried out regularly and safety teams are obliged to report any damage immediately. Each of Switzerland’s 1,500 bridges, along with 3,600 over- and underpasses, are thoroughly examined every five years. 

Bridges can suffer damage from extraordinary events such as earthquakes, flooding or landslides but not from heavy traffic. Rohrbach added that age alone is not a factor as long as a bridge is well maintained. 

Thomas Vogel, an engineering professor at the Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, agreed that it is hard to imagine a bridge collapsing in Switzerland. The structural design expert told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper that any damage or flaws would be acted upon after discovery. 

“We strive to build bridges that would have to show very clear signs of stress or cracks before collapsing,” he concluded.

swissinfo.ch/db

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