Anger engulfs families as Italy buries its bridge victims

A caterpillar removes debris of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, Italy, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. Italian authorities have lowered the death to 38 from 39 in the collapse of a highway bridge in Genoa. Genoa Prefect Office official Raffaella Corsaro told AP that there had been a "misunderstanding" about information from ambulance dispatchers. Earlier, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said that as rescuers comb through the rubble for more bodies it will be "inevitable" that the death toll will eventually rise. Dozens of vehicles plunged into a dry river bed after the collapse Tuesday. (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)
A view of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, Italy, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. Excavators have begun clearing large sections of the collapsed highway bridge in the Italian city of Genoa in the search for people still missing three days after the deadly accident. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
A view of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, Italy, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. Excavators have begun clearing large sections of the collapsed highway bridge in the Italian city of Genoa in the search for people still missing three days after the deadly accident. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
A man touches the coffin of one of the victims of the Morandi highway bridge collapse, in Genoa, Italy, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. Officials say 38 people are confirmed killed and 15 injured. Prosecutors say 10 to 20 people might be unaccounted-for and the death toll is expected to rise. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Caterpillars remove debris from the collapsed Morandi highway bridge, in Genoa, Italy, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. Officials say 38 people are confirmed killed and 15 injured. Prosecutors say 10 to 20 people might be unaccounted-for and the death toll is expected to rise. (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)
Firefighters remove debris of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, Italy, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. Italian authorities have lowered the death to 38 from 39 in the collapse of a highway bridge in Genoa. Genoa Prefect Office official Raffaella Corsaro told AP that there had been a "misunderstanding" about information from ambulance dispatchers. Earlier, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said that as rescuers comb through the rubble for more bodies it will be "inevitable" that the death toll will eventually rise. Dozens of vehicles plunged into a dry river bed after the collapse Tuesday. (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)
Caterpillars remove debris from the collapsed Morandi highway bridge, in Genoa, Italy, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. Officials say 38 people are confirmed killed and 15 injured. Prosecutors say 10 to 20 people might be unaccounted-for and the death toll is expected to rise. (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)
A view of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge, in Genoa, Italy, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. Officials say 38 people are confirmed killed and 15 injured. Prosecutors say 10 to 20 people might be unaccounted-for and the death toll is expected to rise. (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)
Firefighters remove debris of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, Italy, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. Italian authorities have lowered the death to 38 from 39 in the collapse of a highway bridge in Genoa. Genoa Prefect Office official Raffaella Corsaro told AP that there had been a "misunderstanding" about information from ambulance dispatchers. Earlier, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said that as rescuers comb through the rubble for more bodies it will be "inevitable" that the death toll will eventually rise. Dozens of vehicles plunged into a dry river bed after the collapse Tuesday. (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)
A view of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, Italy, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. Excavators have begun clearing large sections of the collapsed highway bridge in the Italian city of Genoa in the search for people still missing three days after the deadly accident. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
A firefighter look at caterpillars as they clear debris from the collapsed Morandi highway bridge, in Genoa, Italy, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. Officials say 38 people are confirmed killed and 15 injured. Prosecutors say 10 to 20 people might be unaccounted-for and the death toll is expected to rise. (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)
Caterpillars remove debris from the collapsed Morandi highway bridge, in Genoa, Italy, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. Officials say 38 people are confirmed killed and 15 injured. Prosecutors say 10 to 20 people might be unaccounted-for and the death toll is expected to rise. (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)
Firefighters work on the collapsed Morandi highway bridge, in Genoa, Italy, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. Officials say 38 people are confirmed killed and 15 injured. Prosecutors say 10 to 20 people might be unaccounted-for and the death toll is expected to rise. (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)
A woman mourns a victim of a collapsed highway bridge, at the Fiera di Genova exhibition center, where some of the coffins are laid in state, in Genoa, Italy, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. A state funeral for most of the victims will take place in Genoa on Saturday. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
A view of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge, in Genoa, Italy, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. Officials say 38 people are confirmed killed and 15 injured. Prosecutors say 10 to 20 people might be unaccounted-for and the death toll is expected to rise. (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)
Mourners sit by the coffins of some of the victims of the Morandi highway bridge collapse, in Genoa, Italy, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. Officials say 38 people are confirmed killed and 15 injured. Prosecutors say 10 to 20 people might be unaccounted-for and the death toll is expected to rise. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
A firefighter looks at caterpillars as they clear debris from the collapsed Morandi highway bridge, in Genoa, Italy, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. Officials say 38 people are confirmed killed and 15 injured. Prosecutors say 10 to 20 people might be unaccounted-for and the death toll is expected to rise. (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)
An undated photo showing 33-year-old Davide Capello. One survivor of the Genoa bridge collapse was in his car as it plunged 45 meters (150 feet) to the ground along with falling sections of highway and concrete. He says he immediately understood that the structure was collapsing. "It came down, everything, the world came down," said 33-year-old Davide Capello, a firefighter and soccer player who walked away traumatized but physically unharmed from Tuesday’s disaster. Capello told The Associated Press on Friday that he was at the midpoint of the bridge wearing a seatbelt when it collapsed. "I heard a noise, a dull noise. I saw the columns of the highway in front of me come down. A car in front of me disappeared into the darkness," he said. (Davide Capello via AP)
A firefighter look at caterpillars as they clear debris from the collapsed Morandi highway bridge, in Genoa, Italy, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. Officials say 38 people are confirmed killed and 15 injured. Prosecutors say 10 to 20 people might be unaccounted-for and the death toll is expected to rise. (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)
A man look at the partially collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, Italy, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. Excavators have begun clearing large sections of the collapsed highway bridge in the Italian city of Genoa in the search for people still missing three days after the deadly accident. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Caterpillars remove debris from the collapsed Morandi highway bridge, in Genoa, Italy, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. Officials say 38 people are confirmed killed and 15 injured. Prosecutors say 10 to 20 people might be unaccounted-for and the death toll is expected to rise. (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)
A view of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, Italy, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. Excavators have begun clearing large sections of the collapsed highway bridge in the Italian city of Genoa in the search for people still missing three days after the deadly accident. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

GENOA, Italy — With anger and grief, Italians began burying some of their dead Friday from the Genoa highway bridge collapse, holding funerals in the victims' hometowns. Several angry families rebuffed the offer of a state funeral and the cardinal of Naples was merciless in his condemnation of negligence by Italian officials.

Saturday has been declared a national day of mourning in Italy and will include a state funeral at the industrial port city's fair grounds for those who plunged to their deaths as the 45-meter (150-foot) tall Morandi Bridge gave way Tuesday.

But many of those who lost loved ones declined to participate in the state funeral. Some cited the need to bid farewell in private while others blamed the loss of at least 38 lives on those responsible for the bridge's safety.

Anger and sadness erupted at the funeral Friday for four men in their 20s, all friends from the Naples seaside suburb of Torre del Greco, whose lives were snuffed out as they drove over the bridge heading to a vacation in Spain.

"You can't, you mustn't die for negligence! For carelessness! For irresponsibility! For superficiality!" thundered Naples Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe in his homily.

Finding the cause of the bridge's collapse during a driving rainstorm might take weeks or months to determine. But Genoa prosecutors say they are focusing their investigation into possible criminal blame on design flaws or inadequate maintenance on the heavily traveled bridge, which was completed in 1967 and linked two high-speed highways in the city.

"My boy and the others suffered murder," said Roberto Battiloro, whose 29-year-old son, a videographer, was one of the four friends who died. "They died an absurd, blameless death just for going on holiday."

His voice shaking with anger, Battiloro said his son was the "victim of a cruel fate, but also of whoever didn't think that on that bridge could be the children of those who are despairing today."

"I have died inside, but I have to find the clarity of mind to say that four boys were not No. 27, No. 28, etc (on the victims' list), but people who loved life," Battiloro declared.

Other private funerals were held in Piedmont and elsewhere in Italy.

Survivors, for their part, were shocked at how they escaped with their lives.

Davide Capello, 33, a firefighter and soccer player, was driving alone on the bridge when his Volkswagen Tiguan and the road it was on plunged to the ground. He immediately understood that the structure was collapsing, watching in shock as a car in front of him "disappeared in darkness."

"It came down, everything, the world came down," he told The Associated Press in an interview Friday, adding that he managed to walk away physically unharmed but psychologically traumatized.

His car plunged nose first, then stopped with a crash, air bags releasing all around him. He said he saw only gray, as concrete dust covered the windows.

Capello used the touch-screen phone in the car to call colleagues at the Savona dispatch center, who sent help. He then called his girlfriend and his father, a retired firefighter, who told him to get out of the car immediately for fear that it would destabilize or something heavy would fall on top of it.

Since neither the car's windows nor its doors would budge, he unclipped his seat belt and climbed out through a hole in the rear of the car that was blasted open by the crash. Outside, he said, "there was an unreal silence" — destroyed vehicles and piles of broken concrete and asphalt, but no signs of life, no cries for help.

Rescue workers then helped him climb down from the rubble.

"I got out with my own legs," said Capello, who plays for a Serie C club in Liguria. "I don't know if anyone else managed to. I was saved by a miracle."

"The car protected me. Besides God, the car also did its job," Capello said.

On Thursday, prosecutors said as many as 20 people could still be missing in the bridge collapse, but cautioned that some people initially reported as unaccounted for might be on vacation and hadn't yet contacted their families.

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

Excavators have begun clearing large sections of the collapsed bridge. Rescuers have been tunneling through tons of jagged steel and concrete blocks to look inside crushed vehicles.

Several vehicles, abandoned by their fleeing occupants on the intact ends of the bridge, were gingerly removed Friday. Among them was a green food delivery truck, which — its windshield wipers swishing, its gear shift in reverse — had halted only few meters (yards) from the jagged edge of the abyss.

For many, the truck at the brink became a symbol of destiny and survival. Highway workers, directed by firefighters, backed it off the bridge and into a nearby tunnel.

Authorities are worried about the stability of large remaining sections of the bridge, which was built over or adjacent to several apartment buildings. Hundreds of residents in those buildings have been evacuated — and there is no guarantee they will ever return to those homes.

Emergency workers also want to quickly remove the tons of debris that fell into the dry riverbed under the bridge so it doesn't create a dam that floods the rest of the city if heavy rains fall again.

___

Barry reported from Milan and D'Emilio from Rome.

___

This story has been corrected to give the confirmed death toll as 38.

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