A former Italian football player has told of his disbelief at surviving the Genoa bridge collapse that felt like an “apocalypse” unfolding before his eyes.
Davide Capello, a goalkeeper who used to play for Serie A side Cagliari, emerged from the rubble alive after plunging off the 150ft (45m) high Morandi viaduct on Monday in an incident that has so far claimed 37 lives.
Around a dozen people remained hospitalised in a serious condition on Wednesday as hundreds of rescuers continued to search for three missing people.
Some 30 motorists and three heavy duty vehicles were on the bridge when a 260ft (79m) span of the highway collapsed during a torrential downpour, as thousands of Italians headed away for the summer Ferragosto holiday.
Capello told Sky TG24 that he was driving along the bridge when he saw “the road in front of me collapse, and I went down with the car”.
The 33-year-old, who now works as a firefighter said he was able to clamber out of his vehicle, which was “attached to a pylon”, and make his way down to rescuers waiting below.
“I was able to get out... I don’t know how my car wasn’t crushed. It seemed like a scene from a film, it was the apocalypse,” he said.
“I was convinced it was going to end badly but thank God I’ve lived to tell the tale.”
The dead include at least one child, the Corriere newspaper reported, quoting the Interior Ministry. Further reports suggested a family of three, on their way to Sardinia, a father and a model were among the casualties. Sixteen people are said to have been injured, but the figure is expected to rise.
What caused the collapse is still unknown and prosecutors said they were opening an investigation into the disaster.
Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli called the incident “unacceptable” and said “whoever made a mistake must pay” if negligence is found to be a factor in the collapse.
Italian premier Giuseppe Conte visited the city and called the collapse of the 51-year-old bridge “a serious wound for Genoa, Liguria and Italy”.
He later declared a 12-month state of emergency at the request of the authorities in the Liguria region around the city.
Speaking at a news conference in Genoa, Conte took aim at toll-road operator Autostrade, a unit of Milan-listed Atlantia group, which operated the bridge as part of a stretch of the A10 motorway it manages.
He said the firm had been responsible for ensuring safety on the bridge and the government would not await the outcome of a current criminal investigation into the disaster before taking action.
Earlier, the transport minister said the firm’s A10 motorway concession should be revoked and it be hit with heavy fines.
The disaster has focused attention on Italy’s ageing infrastructure, particularly its concrete bridges and viaducts built in the post-war boom of the 1950s and 1960s. There had been proposals to upgrade the 1967 bridge.
Witnesses reported hearing a roar as the bridge collapsed and one unidentified woman, who was standing below, told RAI state TV that it crumbled as if it were a mound of baking flour.
One video of the collapse, which showed a chaotic scene of crumbled concrete, captured a man screaming: “Oh, God, oh, God.”
There remains huge gap where the bridge used to be, and one heart-stopping image taken on Tuesday showed a green truck halted on the road just short of the edge.
Angelo Borrelli, the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, said: “Operations are ongoing to extract people imprisoned below parts of the bridge and twisted metal.”
Officials have evacuated several hundred people living along the raised motorway that traverses the city as a precaution.