Hundreds of firefighters and emergency rescue officials are racing against time to find survivors after a major highway collapsed during a violent storm in Italy's city of Genoa.

The incident saw 80 metres of the bridge collapse, sending vehicles pluning 45 metres into a heap of rubble.

Italiy's leader Premier Giuseppe Conte has said 22 people have been killed and 16 injured, and he fears that the final death toll may rise.

But unidentified fire brigade sources had earlier told Italy's ANSA news agency that 35 people were killed.

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Firefighters load an injured person on a helicopter after the Morandi highway bridge collapsed in Genoa, northern Italy, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. Photo / AP
Firefighters load an injured person on a helicopter after the Morandi highway bridge collapsed in Genoa, northern Italy, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. Photo / AP
Rescuers work to recover an injured person after the Morandi highway bridge collapsed in Genoa, northern Italy. Photo / AP
Rescuers work to recover an injured person after the Morandi highway bridge collapsed in Genoa, northern Italy. Photo / AP
Rescuers work to recover an injured person after the Morandi highway bridge collapsed in Genoa.The highway bridge collapsed during a violent storm. Photo / AP
Rescuers work to recover an injured person after the Morandi highway bridge collapsed in Genoa.The highway bridge collapsed during a violent storm. Photo / AP
Firefighters rescue a person from the rubble of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge. A large section of the bridge collapsed over an industrial area. Photo / AP
Firefighters rescue a person from the rubble of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge. A large section of the bridge collapsed over an industrial area. Photo / AP
Rescuers work among the rubble of the Morandi highway bridge that collapsed in Genoa, northern Italy. Photo / AP
Rescuers work among the rubble of the Morandi highway bridge that collapsed in Genoa, northern Italy. Photo / AP
Rescuers work to recover an injured person after the Morandi highway bridge collapsed. Photo / AP
Rescuers work to recover an injured person after the Morandi highway bridge collapsed. Photo / AP
A woman is comforted as cries after the Morandi highway bridge collapsed in Genoa, northern Italy. Photo / AP
A woman is comforted as cries after the Morandi highway bridge collapsed in Genoa, northern Italy. Photo / AP
A view of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy. Photo / AP
A view of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy. Photo / AP
Cars are blocked on the Morandi highway bridge after a section of it collapsed, in Genoa, northern Italy. Photo / AP
Cars are blocked on the Morandi highway bridge after a section of it collapsed, in Genoa, northern Italy. Photo / AP
A firefighters helicopter flies over the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy. Photo / AP
A firefighters helicopter flies over the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy. Photo / AP
Rescuers work to recover an injured person after the Morandi highway bridge collapsed in Genoa, northern Italy. Photo / AP
Rescuers work to recover an injured person after the Morandi highway bridge collapsed in Genoa, northern Italy. Photo / AP
Firefighter inspect the site of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy. Photo / AP
Firefighter inspect the site of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy. Photo / AP
Rescuers work to recover an injured person after the Morandi highway bridge collapsed in Genoa. Photo / AP
Rescuers work to recover an injured person after the Morandi highway bridge collapsed in Genoa. Photo / AP