The Genoa bridge collapse which has claimed the lives of at least 39 people may have been an accident waiting to happen after 'mafia' companies were involved in its construction, it has been claimed.

Italy has long been plagued with corruption and business infiltration by gangland bosses – particularly within the construction industry.

For decades, "families" as mafia groups are often known, are believed to have blackmailed, conned and forced their way into big building contracts, the Daily Mail reports.

An Italian engineering professor predicted the tragic Morandi Bridge disaster two years ago, warning it needed a significant upgrade. Photo / Twitter
An Italian engineering professor predicted the tragic Morandi Bridge disaster two years ago, warning it needed a significant upgrade. Photo / Twitter

Engineers have now claimed the same thing may have happened when the Morandi Viaduct in Genoa was built between 1963 and 1967.

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A huge 260ft section of the 50-year-old Morandi bridge gave way at about 11.30am on Tuesday causing vehicles to plummet 150ft with tonnes of twisted steel and concrete debris into a river below.

An investigation into negligent miscarriage and negligent homicide has been opened by Genoa Public Prosecutor's Office.

Investigations into the collapse, which happened during a storm, could now probe whether the initial build, or following maintenance, was carried out by corrupted firms, Canada's Globe and Mail reported.

Prosecutor Francesco Cozzi called the collapse "an immense and insane tragedy" as Italians call for justice.

This would not be the first time Mafia-run firms have been linked to disaster.

Franco Roberti, head of Italy's anti-Mafia directorate in 2016, said Italian authorities must ensure the Mafia plays no role in the reconstruction work of the towns destroyed by earthquakes which killed about 300 people because of their shoddy work.

"There are risks; it is useless to hide it," he told Italy's La Repubblica newspaper.

"The risk of infiltration is always high. Postearthquake reconstruction is a tasty morsel for criminal organizations and business interests."

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It is not just mafia men who are being blamed but Government officials and businesses.

A view of the evacuated houses built under the remains part of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge, in Genoa, northern Italy. Photo / AP
A view of the evacuated houses built under the remains part of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge, in Genoa, northern Italy. Photo / AP

Italy's deputy premier, Luigi Di Maio accused the Benetton group, which through its £6million holding company Atlantia controls Autostrade Per Italia, of pocketing profits instead of investing money for maintenance.

Since the accident it has been revealed concerns were raised over the 1.2 kilometres long structure which forms part of the A10 highway.

Photos from under the 90 metres high build showed parts "crumbling" into disrepair.

Dave Parker, Technical Editor Emeritus of New Civil Engineer told Radio 4's Today that "according to urban myths, the mafia had a very big finger in the pie of the concrete industry back when the bridge was erected, charging full price and putting less cement in."

Known mafia men have made fortunes in the construction industry.

Matteo Messina Denaro, who runs Sicily's Cosa Nostra operation and is named the "don of dons" was reported in 2012 to run a firm with a turnover of $223b a year.

Part of that business was linked to construction firms.

In a police offensive against Denaro, building firms, cement companies, houses and shops worth around $878m were confiscated.

A general view of the Morandi bridge which collapsed today. The bridge was built in the 1960s and part of the A10 motorway connecting the Liguria region with south Italy. Photo / Getty
A general view of the Morandi bridge which collapsed today. The bridge was built in the 1960s and part of the A10 motorway connecting the Liguria region with south Italy. Photo / Getty

Established firms were not only corrupted to make money - but to launder it.

In recent years other European nations have been warned to keep an eye out for Italian mobs breaking into their own construction businesses.

Sicily's construction work market, one of the most important mafia businesses in the region, was severely hit by the economic crisis and profits dropped 90% in the decade from 2007.

Yesterday, experts said the Morandi bridge was almost certainly brought down by a fatal flaw in its construction, or wear and tear which inspectors overseeing maintenance had missed.

Among the dead are an engaged couple Alberto Fanfani, 32, an anaesthesiologist and his fiancee Marta Danisi, 29. The pair were due to be married next year.

A family was also killed. Roberto Robbiano, his wife Ersilia Piccinino, and their eight-year-old son Samuel all died as they were driving across the bridge

Stella Boccia, 24, was also killed alongside her Dominican boyfriend Carlos, 23, who was a waiter. The pair were returning from a holiday when they died.

Nathan Gusman, 20, and Melissa Artus, 22, both tourists from France, were on a road trip from Montpellier to Sardinia alongside friend Nemati Alizè Plaze, 20, when they died.

Alberto Fanfani, 32, an anesthesiologist who was originally from Florence, was also killed in the crash along with his fiancee Marta Danisi, 29. The pair were due to be married next year.
Alberto Fanfani, 32, an anesthesiologist who was originally from Florence, was also killed in the crash along with his fiancee Marta Danisi, 29. The pair were due to be married next year.
The family from the town of Campomorone north of Genoa were just in the wrong place at the wrong time on the busy arterial road west of the city that was bustling with traffic. Photo / Facebook
The family from the town of Campomorone north of Genoa were just in the wrong place at the wrong time on the busy arterial road west of the city that was bustling with traffic. Photo / Facebook

Some survivors have been pulled from the wreckage in the last 24 hours as rescuers pick through the mangle of cars and buildings at the bottom.

A pregnant woman has told how the father of her unborn child survived the Genoa bridge collapse by clinging to wires 65ft above the ground.

Giulia Organo said boyfriend Gianluca Ardini, 29, managed to cling on for hours despite suffering a dislocated shoulder because thinking of their baby "gave him the strength to survive".

Ardini, who sells computer games, was making a delivery with colleague Luigi Matti Altadonna, 34, which the Morandi bridge gave way beneath them.

Altadonna, himself a father-of-four, tragically fell 150ft to his death.

Some engineering experts have blamed the man whose vision the bridge was.

Antonio Brencich, a professor of reinforced concrete construction at the University of Genoa, pre-stressed reinforced concrete was used by Italian engineer Riccardo Morandi.

"It was affected by extremely serious corrosion problems linked to the technology that was used (in construction). Morandi wanted to use a technology that he had patented that was no longer used afterwards and that showed itself to be a failure," Professor Brencich told Radio Capitale.