- Nearly two dozen people -- including a child -- were killed when a raised highway in Genoa crumbled during a sudden and violent storm, sending several vehicles plunging to the ground where rescuers desperately searched for survivors.

An Italian transport official said 22 people were killed and eight others were injured. The transport minister, Danilo Toninelli, earlier tweeted the collapse was likely "an enormous tragedy."

About a 650-foot section of the Morandi bridge, part of the A10 highway that connects Italy to France, collapsed over an industrial zone just after 12 p.m. local time, private broadcaster Sky TG24 said. About 20 vehicles were involved, firefighter Amalia Tedeschi told RAI state TV.

"We are following minute by minute the situation of the bridge collapse in Genoa," Interior Minister Matteo Salvini wrote on Twitter.

Tedeschi said two people were pulled from the rubble alive as rescuers searched the scene for survivors.

The exact cause of the collapse was unclear, though a witness said he saw lightning strike the structure, which fell apart soon after. 

"It was just after 11:30 a.m. when we saw the lighting bolt hit the bridge and we saw the bridge go down," witness Pietro M. told ANSA.

Authorities earlier said they suspected there was a structural weakness. 

Images posted by state police and witnesses showed a huge section of the bridge missing and crushed trucks and cars. Parts of the structure also landed on the rooftops of nearby buildings. Video captured the sound of a man screaming: "Oh, God, oh, God!"

Firefighters said they are concerned about gas lines in the area.

The bridge was inaugurated in 1967 and stands nearly 300 feet high and is about 0.6 miles long. It's an interchange between the northern regions of Lombardy and Piedmont and the beaches of Liguria.

The collapse also occurred on the eve of Ferragosto, a major Italian holiday. Authorities said traffic on the bridge was expected to be higher than usual because many people travel to beaches or mountains during the holiday.

Two years before the deadly collapse, an engineer said the bridge was bound for disaster. Antonio Brencich, who is also a professor at the University of Genoa, said in July 2016 that there were problems with the structure, reported.