State funeral for Genoa bridge collapse victims begins

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Excavators began clearing large sections of the collapsed highway bridge in the Italian city of Genoa on Friday, searching for people still missing three days after the deadly accident that one survivor said ended with an "unreal silence".

The collapse of the Morandi bridge, a decades-old viaduct that crumbled in a storm on Tuesday killing at least 38 people, has stunned and angered the country, with Italian media reporting that some outraged families would shun Saturday's official ceremonies. The collapse has prompted fears over other ageing infrastructure in Italy and overseas, with Bulgaria announcing Thursday a plan to renovate more than 200 bridges while France has said one in three of national road bridges are in need of fix.

The service, which coincides with a national day of mourning, came as firefighters still searching for five missing people discovered a auto with human remains inside. Relatives of the dead stood beside the coffins, adorned with white and yellow roses, some with their hands on the caskets.

Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, who is expected to lead the mass, expressed his respect for those who refused state funerals.

A state funeral for numerous victims will be held on Saturday at Genoa's Exhibition and Trade Centre, led by the city's archbishop, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, and attended by resident Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Large crowds gathered outside the church in Torre del Greco, near Naples, while the priests blessed the four coffins. His father, Roberto, told Italian newspaper Il Messaggero: "We do not want farcical ceremonies".

Civil protection department officials said on Friday there might only be five people missing, but the exact number was fluctuating.

Firefighters and rescue teams recovered a auto from the rubble overnight into Saturday. Rescuers have been tunnelling through tons of jagged steel, concrete and crushed vehicles that plunged as many as 45 metres when the bridge suddenly fell during a downpour on Tuesday.

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A auto was found on Saturday morning by rescue workers under slabs of concrete.

Despite fading hopes of finding survivors, rescue workers said they had not given up as they resumed the unsafe operation to search through the unstable mountains of debris.

The European Commission also tweeted its "deepest sympathy and honest condolences to the families and friends of those who have died".

"Today the government.has formally sent to Autostrade per l'Italia the letter of complaint that launches the process for revoking the concession", Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a statement.

The Italian Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport announced the creation of an inspection commission to carry out technical checks and analysis in an investigation into the cause of the collapse.

But a report emerged yesterday, commissioned by the company itself, which warned about the condition of the concrete-encased cable stays that held the bridge up.

He demanded that "responsibility be ascertained with rigour" for the collapse of the bridge, which linked two major highways, one leading to Milan and the other toward France.