A motorway bridge has collapsed in the northwest Italian city of Genoa, killing at least 35 people as vehicles plummeted to the ground, emergency services say, BBC reports.
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 90m (295ft) on to rail tracks, buildings and a river. Rescuers are trying to free people caught in crushed vehicles or rubble.
Some 200 firefighters are working at the scene, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said. Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli spoke of an “immense tragedy” and France offered Italy its support.
Shares in Atlantia, the toll road operator which runs much of the country’s motorways, fell 6.3% after news of the collapse.
How did the structure collapse?
It fell around 11:30 local time (09:30 GMT) during heavy rain. Police reported a violent cloudburst.
“It was just after 11:30 when we saw lightning strike the bridge,” eyewitness Pietro M all’Asa was quoted as saying by Italy’s Ansa news agency. “And we saw the bridge going down.”
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?
A child is among the dead, said the head of the civil defence agency, Angelo Borrelli. About 30 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?
Restructuring work on the bridge was carried out in 2016, Reuters news agency reports. The highway operator said work to shore up its foundation was being carried out at the time of the collapse, and the bridge was constantly monitored.
“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.
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.