Survivors of Italy bridge collapse share dramatic tales of escape

PHOTO: A bridge collapsed in Genoa, Italy, Aug. 14, 2018.PlayLuca Zennaro/REX via Shutterstock
WATCH At least 39 dead as rescue efforts continue in Italy bridge collapse

As the death toll continues to climb from a highway bridge collapse in northwest Italy, survivors spoke to reporters about how they managed to escape the catastrophe unscathed.

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Afifi Idriss, a Moroccan lorry driver, said he was driving on the Morandi Bridge in the port city of Genoa when a vast section of it buckled Tuesday. Idriss, 39, told Agence France-Presse he managed to bring his vehicle to a halt just in time, as dozens of cars and three trucks ahead of him plunged 150 feet to the ground.

"I saw the green lorry in front of me stop and then reverse so I stopped too, locked the truck and ran," Idriss said.

PHOTO: Italian rescuers climb onto the rubble of the collapsed Morandi motorway bridge to look for victims and survivors in the northern port city of Genoa on Aug. 14, 2018. Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images
Italian rescuers climb onto the rubble of the collapsed Morandi motorway bridge to look for victims and survivors in the northern port city of Genoa on Aug. 14, 2018.

Davide Capello, a former goalkeeper for Italian football club Cagliari Calcio, said his vehicle went down with the bridge and he felt "incredibly lucky" to be alive.

"I remember that the road was collapsing, I was passing through and I heard a deafening sound and I saw the road going down and I was going down with it and I thought the worse," Capello, 33, told Repubblica TV.

Capello, who is now a firefighter, said he immediately called his fellow firefighters for help, as well as his family members to let them know he was OK.

"Its one of the most busy roads and it is unthinkable that something like that could happen in Italy," he said.

It was unclear from the interview with Repubblica TV exactly how Capello got out unharmed.

PHOTO: Rescue teams search for survivors among the rubble of the collapsed Morando highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy, on Aug. 14, 2018. Flavio Lo Scalzo/ANSA via AP
Rescue teams search for survivors among the rubble of the collapsed Morando highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy, on Aug. 14, 2018.

The Morandi Bridge, which connects highway traffic between Italy and France, collapsed on the eve of Ferragosto, a major summer holiday in Italy when Roman Catholics celebrate the Assumption of Mary. At least 39 people, including three children, were killed and another 15 were injured, authorities said.

Investigators are trying to determine the cause of the incident.

The Italian cabinet on Wednesday declared a 12-month state of emergency for Genoa, with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte calling the bridge's collapse "unacceptable in modern society."

PHOTO: The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy, Aug. 14, 2018. Stefano Rellandini/Reuters
The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy, Aug. 14, 2018.

Meanwhile, hundreds of rescue workers remain at the scene in a desperate search for more survivors. Buildings beneath the bridge were damaged in the collapse and authorities are concerned that what's left of the structure could crumble.

"It continues to be a rescue operation until they have searched all the rubble," Italian fire official Emanuelle Gissi told ABC News on Wednesday. "They finished one side of the river bank and moved to the other side."

ABC News' Clark Bentson, Ben Gittleson and Lena Masri contributed to this report.