GENOA, Italy — The death toll from the collapse of a highway bridge in the Italian city of Genoa that is already confirmed to have claimed at least 38 lives will certainly rise, a senior official said Thursday.
"Unfortunately, the toll will increase, that's inevitable" as rescuers continued to search tons of rubble for the missing, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini told reporters.
On Wednesday, Premier Giuseppe Conte told reporters that 39 people had died.
But on Thursday, the Genoa's prefect office, which reports to the interior ministry lowered the number of confirmed dead to 38. Prefect Office official Raffaella Corsaro attributed the lowered number to a "misunderstanding" about information supplied by ambulance dispatchers.
Corsaro said that there are 15 injured persons. Doctors have said one of the injured is in coma with severe cranial injuries.
Rescuers continued to comb through tons of jagged steel, concrete and dozens of vehicles that plunged as much as 45 meters (150 feet) into a dry river bed on Tuesday, the eve of Italy's main summer holiday.
Salvini declined to cite a number of the missing, saying that would be "supposition," but separately Genoa Chief Prosecutor Francesco Cozzi told reporters there could be between 10 and 20 people still unaccounted for.
Gov. Giovanni Toti, the leader of the Liguria region which includes Genoa, told a news conference that a key part of the problem in calculating how many might be missing is that "we don't know how many cars, how many trucks were on the bridge at that moment" when it collapsed during a violent rainstorm.
"The search and rescue operations will continue until we find all those people that are listed as missing," Sonia Noci, a spokeswoman for Genoa firefighters, told The Associated Press.
Italy is planning a state funeral for the dead in the port city Saturday, which will be marked as a day of national mourning. The service will be held in a pavilion on the industrial city's fair grounds and led by Genoa's archbishop, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco.
At least six of the dead are foreigners — four French citizens and two Albanians.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella has called the collapse an "absurd" catastrophe that has stricken the entire nation.
Genoa's two soccer clubs had their weekend matches postponed because of the tragedy. And Italy's soccer league announced that in all other matches this weekend a minute of silence will be observed in memory of the victims before play begins.
Cozzi has said the investigation of the cause is focusing on possible inadequate maintenance of the 1967 Morandi Bridge or possible design flaws.
In an interview on SkyTG24 TV Thursday, Cozzi said that there was a video of the collapse. Outside experts will study the video to see if it might help determine the cause.
Since the cause is yet to be ascertained, there are "no suspects" at this point, the prosecutor said. But he said prosecutors are considering possible eventual charges that include multiple manslaughter.
Premier Giuseppe Conte says his government won't wait until prosecutors finish investigating the collapse to withdraw the concession from the main private company that maintains Italy's highways, Atlantia.
The bridge links two heavily travelled highways, one leading to France, the other to Milan.
A 20 million-euro ($22.7 million) project to upgrade the bridge's safety had already been approved, with public bids to be submitted by September. According to business daily Il Sole, improvement work would have involved two weight-bearing columns that support the bridge — including one that collapsed Tuesday.1 comment on this story
The bridge, considered innovative when it opened in 1967 for its use of concrete around its cables, was long due for an upgrade, especially since it carried more traffic than its designers had envisioned. Some architects have said the choice of encasing its cables in reinforced concrete was risky since it's harder to detect corrosion of the metal cables inside.
Frances D'Emilio reported from Rome. Colleen Barry and Daniella Matar in Milan contributed to this report.
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