The Morandi viaduct: IFSTTAR interviewed by journalists

The Morandi viaduct: IFSTTAR interviewed by journalists  - Ifsttar - Viaduc Morandi_img

© Wikimedia commons / Michele Ferraris / CC BY-SA 4.0

This summer, the teams from the Institute's Materials and Structures department received many requests for interviews to discuss a sensitive topic: the collapse of the Morandi viaduct in Italy. Here is an overview of the activities of the Institute's experts.

The disaster struck at 11:36 am on Tuesday, August 14, 2018: a section of the Morandi viaduct in Genoa collapsed, killing 43 people. At 4pm, the first journalists from continuous news channels (LCI, BFM and CNews) got in touch with IFSTTAR's Materials and Structures Department (MAST). After this,

the researchers and the Institute's management worked together to decide how they should deal with the media: "We agreed that our experts would only talk about the technical issues: What is a bridge? What is it made of? What is concrete? How does it age? How is it monitored? Are there Morandi-type bridges in France?” explains Jean-Bernard Kovarik, Deputy Managing General of IFSTTAR. Another instruction was not to answer questions about the management strategy or which might appear controversial, such as, for example, the state of French infrastructure (under the responsibility of the interdepartmental road directorates and local authorities), the financing of their maintenance or even the responsibility for the accident. "Although these are very legitimate questions, we do not have the expertise to answer them", the Deputy Managing Director comments.
“Provide answers to complex problems using accessible language”

AFP, Le Monde, TF1, Sciences et Avenir, France Culture, France Inter, RFI, Arte, France 24... Up to the end of August, there was a flurry of requests from the media, both those aimed at the general public and a specialised audience (see box). "Our researchers were able to provide answers to complex problems using accessible, jargon-free, language, and without straying outside their field of expertise when confronted by questions about the state of French roads or the causes of the accident. For example, they provided a very good explanation of the principles of prevention and monitoring for bridges in France and why the condition of the prestressing cables in the Morandi Bridge was a very sensitive issue," enthuses Jean-Bernard Kovarik. “They all displayed a real sense of public service”.

On Wednesday, September 26, the Ministry of Transport also published a liste detailing the condition of approximately 160 major bridges on the French road network. This was available to all, and was immediately covered by the media, which mentioned "23 engineering structures requiring works". In this context, researchers and engineers from IFSTTAR and CEREMA will now play their role as scientific and technical experts in the maintenance and monitoring of engineering structures for the interdepartmental roads directorates and local authorities. They also stand ready to answer any new questions the public may have.

  • Video (in French): Jean-Michel Torrenti, head of IFSTTAR’s Materials and Structures department, explains