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Italian rescuers searched through the night Wednesday for any survivors under the shattered remains of a motorway bridge in Genoa as investigators probed what could have caused such a catastrophic collapse.

Some 30 people are thought to have died in the bridge collapse (AFP / ANDREA LEONI)

Italian rescuers searched through the night Wednesday for any survivors under the shattered remains of a motorway bridge in Genoa as investigators probed what could have caused such a catastrophic collapse.

Some 30 people were killed on Tuesday when a vast span of the Morandi bridge collapsed during a heavy rainstorm, sending vehicles and their drivers plunging 100-metres (330 feet) onto railway tracks below.

Rescuers spent the night searching the tangled remains of the bridge under floodlights and there are fears the toll could rise in what the Italian government has called an "immense tragedy".

The collapse came as the bridge was undergoing maintenance work and as the Liguria region, where Genoa is situated, experienced torrential rainfall.

"Unfortunately there are around 30 dead and many injured in a serious condition," Interior Minister Matteo Salvini told reporters.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella said a "catastrophe" had hit Genoa and the whole of Italy, as attention turned to what might have caused the collapse and who might be ultimately responsible.

"Italians have the right to modern and efficient infrastructure that accompanies them safely through their everyday lives," Mattarella said in a statement.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said "all infrastructure" across the country needed to be double-checked. "We must not allow another tragedy like this to happen again," he added.

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