August 14, 2018 is a date that can never fade from the collective memory of all Italians. It was a terrible day, one foreshadowed by a severe storm in Genoa.
Suddenly, a lightning strike illuminated the sky, followed by an impressive roar. In a few seconds, one of Italy’s most famous bridges crumbled into the abyss below, condemning 43 people to death as their cars plummeted into the void. A few lucky survivors were saved by courageous firefighters, while all the area’s inhabitants began an odyssey that still hasn’t reached a conclusion.
The government immediately took action to seek out the culprits of that immense tragedy, while local politicians began to do all they could to help those who had lost everything in one day.
For years, maintenance was neglected on Morandi Bridge—named after Riccardo Morandi, the engineer who designed it in the 1960s—and despite visible signs of wear and tear, the interventions were always delayed. After the tragedy, residents near the bridge were driven from their homes and transferred—first to temporary shelters, and then to new houses assigned by the municipality. In just half a day, whole families were forced to abandon their life’s memories.
The collapse of the Morandi Bridge broke in two the heart of a city. It was a bridge built in the 1960s according to a technology that seemed permanent for the time, although disrespectful of public health. A district of Genoa, the Valpolcevera, was dominated by this concrete dinosaur that overhung houses’ roofs, even invading people’s homes. But it was the years of “economic boom”, and everything was permissible to increase business and give to the country a new future. No one thought something disastrous might happen.
After that fateful day in 2018, Genoa has suffered moral and economic damage from which it is slowly coming out. The communications interruption caused a worrisome decrease of the harbor affairs, and many businesses in the area were forced to close.
However, June 28, 2019, could be the date that marks a new beginning. After months of meetings, tenders, project evaluation and public debates, the Morandi’s viaduct spectral remains were demolished to make room for what will be a new bridge designed by a world-famous Genoese architect Renzo Piano.
However, the demolition of a deck of that size—1,182 meters long and 90 meters high—required the intervention of specialized personnel at the highest level. Therefore, the responsibility fell on the Italian Army’s select units, the 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment Col Moschin (9º Reggimento d’Assalto Paracadutisti), also referred to as “The Ninth.”
The Col Moschin Raiders were undoubtedly the best choice for demolition. Their know-how is based on centuries-old tradition and an increasingly-advanced type of training. Originally, the Ninth was called the “Saboteur Battalion,” and the operators were studying the best techniques to destroy any infrastructure. Since February 2019, the Col Moschin specialized operators have been involved—as always without too much clamor—in all the decisions regarding the demolition procedures of Morandi Bridge’s supporting columns.
Many dangers arise from this type of operation, and every risk was calculated and reduced to a minimum. Two days of tests were carried out at a quarry near Genoa, using different skills and types of explosives. To reduce the effects of overpressure waves and possible flakes, the team prepared water pockets to cover the charges, while the area was circumscribed by a sandbag wall four meters high. Using classified military procedures, the Army’s special operations forces employed a type of blast specially developed for cutting of iron artefacts. Civilian demolition technicians led by Danilo Coppe joined military personnel.
In total, 500 kg of dynamite and 30 kg of military explosive were used. At 9.37 a.m. on June 28th, the last stately blocks of the Morandi Bridge dissolved in a sequence of perfect explosions. Watch in the video below.
Before leaving Genoa, the Col Moschin Raiders will take care of all clean-up operations to account for and verify all charges. As the video demonstrates, they confirm excellence worldwide as a Special Forces unit. Genoa and all of Italy thanks them.