Italy cruise ship Costa Concordia aground near Giglio
|Cruise liner runs aground off Italy's coast|
Three dead and more than 50 missing in ship accident, as thousands are ferried to the mainland at Santo Stefano port.
The Costa Concordia was on a trip around the Mediterranean when it "hit an obstacle" near the Isola del Giglio late on Friday, a coast guard official told the Associated Press news agency.
But the exact circumstances of the accident remained unclear and more than 50 people remain missing.
"At around 8:00pm (19:00 GMT) the 290-metre-long Costa Concordia cruise ship ... began taking on water and tilting over by around 20 degrees," the coast guard said in a statement, after most of those aboard were rescued with lifeboats.
"There are three certified dead," Guiseppe Linardi, the top official in Grossetto told Italian media, saying that difficulties in mounting the passenger rescue effort had led to earlier confusion over the death toll. Authorities fear the casualty figure could rise.
One of the victims was a man in his 70s who died of a heart attack caused by the shock to his system when he jumped into the icy waters, reports said. Several people were also injured in the accident, two of them seriously.
Most of the 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members had already been evacuated to safety on Saturday, as the search continued to see if anyone remained trapped inside the ship.
Helicopters were being used to help rescuers, while hundreds of others were transferred by ferry to the mainland at the Santo Stefano port.
Some passengers heard a large bang and were initially told the ship had shuddered to a halt for electrical reasons, before being told to put on their life-jackets, a passenger from the boat told the ANSA news agency by telephone.
"We were having supper when the lights suddenly went out. We heard a boom and a groaning noise, and all the cutlery fell on the floor," passenger Luciano Castro said.
She said that crew members tried to reassure the passengers, but that they had trouble handling the situation.
"When we got to the deck, people were just utterly hysterical, mostly not because something was scary, but because there was no control.
"It was just utter madness. People were falling because the ship was actually sinking quite fast. And the next thing we heard was 'abandon ship'," Lau said.
"We had to embark onto our lifeboats, and people were rushing onto the lifeboats and there was no order of any sort. No one told us what to do," she added
'Like the Titanic'
Some passengers jumped into the sea in a hurry to get off the sinking ship, according to reports.
"It was like a scene from the Titanic," said passenger Mara Parmegiani.
The local mayor said they were trying to find room to accommodate the rescued passengers, including pregnant women and children.
"We are trying to accommodate them anywhere we can - in schools, nurseries, hotels, anywhere that has a roof," said mayor Sergio Ortelli, who added that some passengers were bedding down for the night in a church.
The Costa Crociera company, which owns the vessel, said that it was not yet possible to say what caused the problem, but that the evacuation had been fast.
"The ship was on a cruise in the Mediterranean, leaving from Savona with planned stops in Civitavecchia, Palermo, Cagliari, Palma, Barcelona and Marseille," the company said.
"There were around 1,000 Italian passengers on board, as well as 500 Germans and around 160 French people," it added, without giving details about the rest.
The cruise ship - which boasts 58 suites with balconies, five restaurants, 13 bars, five Jacuzzis and four swimming pools - had set off from the Civitavecchia port near Rome earlier on Friday when it ran into difficulties.
On Saturday, the cruise liner was taking in water through a 50m hole in its hull, and the condition of the vessel appeared to be worsening.
Three people are confirmed dead after a cruise ship carrying more than 4,000 people ran aground off Italy.
There were scenes of panic as the Costa Concordia hit a sandbar on Friday evening near the island of Giglio and listed about 20 degrees. People reached land by lifeboats but some swam ashore.
Rescue teams have been going from cabin to cabin, searching for survivors.
Italians, Germans, French and British were among the 3,200 passengers. There were also 1,000 crew on board.
Helicopters evacuated the last 50 people on the deck who were in a "worsening" situation.
Three people were confirmed dead, Italian coast guard officials said on Saturday morning - fewer than the six or eight deaths reported by Italian media earlier.Mediterranean cruise
The Costa Concordia had sailed earlier on Friday from Civitavecchia port near Rome for a Mediterranean cruise, due to dock in Marseille after calling at ports in Sicily, Sardinia and Spain.
One thousand passengers were Italian, with 500 Germans and 160 French.
Some "tens" of British passengers are believed to have been on board, said the UK Foreign Office, which is sending a team to the scene.
Some passengers told the Associated Press the crew had failed to give instructions on how to evacuate the ship. An evacuation drill was scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
"It was so unorganised, our evacuation drill was scheduled for 17:00 (16:00 GMT)," Melissa Goduti, 28, from the US told AP. "We had joked what if something had happened today."
Passengers were eating dinner on Friday evening, when they heard a loud bang, and were told that the ship had suffered electrical problems, one passenger told Italy's Ansa news agency.
"We were having supper when the lights suddenly went out, we heard a boom and a groaning noise, and all the cutlery fell on the floor," said Luciano Castro.
Passenger Mara Parmegiani told Italian media there were "scenes of panic".
"We were very scared and freezing because it happened while we were at dinner so everyone was in evening wear. We definitely didn't have time to get anything else. They gave us blankets but there weren't enough," she said.
The 290-metre (950 ft) vessel ran aground, starting taking in water and listing by 20 degrees, the local coast guard said.
Orders were given to abandon ship, Deodato Ordona, a cabin steward on the Costa Concordia, told the BBC.
"We announced a general emergency and took passengers to muster stations," he said.
"But it is hard to launch the lifeboats, so they moved to the right side of the ship, and they could launch."Hypothermia
Elderly passengers were crying, said Mr Ordona, adding that he and some others jumped into the sea and swam roughly 400 metres to reach land.
Rescued passengers were accommodated in hotels, schools and a church on Giglio, a resort island 25km (18 miles) off Italy's western coast.
Most have now been moved to the mainland, Elizabeth Nanni from Giglio's tourist information service told the BBC.
"Usually there are 700 people on the island at this time of year, so receiving 4,000 and some in the middle of the night wasn't easy," she said. "Some people jumped in the sea so they had hypothermia."
Searches are still going on for "possible missing people", regional official Giuseppe Linardi told the Italian broadcaster RAI.
Once the search of the cabins above the waterline has been completed, scuba divers will then check the decks which were submerged by the crash.
Coast guard official Francesco Paolillo, a local coast guard official, told the AFP news agency there was a 30m hole in the ship but that it was too early to say what exactly had happened.
"We think this happened as a result of sailing too close to an obstacle like a reef," he said.
Costa Cruises, the company which owns the ship, said it could not yet say what had caused the accident.
"The gradual listing of the ship made the evacuation extremely difficult," a statement said. "The position of the ship, which is worsening, is making more difficult the last part of the evacuation.
"We'd like to express our deepest gratitude to the coastguard and other emergency services, including the authorities and citizens of the island of Giglio, who did their best in saving and helping the passengers and crew."
Two years ago, a Costa Cruises ship crashed into a dock at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh, killing three members of the crew.
Dozens of passengers 'still missing' and three dead after luxury cruise liner carrying 4,200 people capsizes off the coast of Italy
- Costa Concordia developed electrical fault two hours after leaving port
- Three bodies recovered from water and 4,200 passengers and crew evacuated
- One victim, 65, died from heart attack following shock of cold water Passengers 'forced to leap into the water to swim to safety'
- Liner had listed so badly 'lifeboats had difficulty being launched'
- Passengers heard plates smashing and crawled along near vertical corridors
- 24 Britons on board but none believed to have died or been injured
By EMILY ALLEN
Sixty nine people are believed to be missing and three are dead after a packed cruise liner began capsizing off the Italian coast after running aground.
Twenty-four British holidaymakers were on the Costa Concordia which had left port at 7pm for a seven-day Mediterranean Cruise - but within two hours, it ran aground in the sea with a major electrical fault.
The 13 deck liner then began to take on water after hitting rocks creating a 160ft gash in the hull, near the island of Giglio, off the Tuscan coast - two weeks into the Titanic centenary year.
About 4,200 passengers and crew were evacuated but Italian officials said this afternoon 69 had not yet been accounted for, although they warned the passenger list might not be fully up-to-date.
SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEO
Tragedy: A terrified passenger said it was 'like a scene from the Titanic' as the ship began to sink and people were ordered into lifeboats and airlifted to safety
Damage: The luxury cruise liner lies virtually flat, its right-hand side submerged in the water. The huge hole in the hull is clearly visible
Italian news agency Ansa said 4,165 out of the 4,234 people on-board were safe but did not know the whereabouts of the remaining 69.
Coast guards and divers have spent the morning searching the submerged decks, the BBC said.
The Concordia's grounding should serve as a wake-up call to the shipping industry and those who regulate it, the maritime professionals' union Nautilus International said.
Passengers said the ship had begun to sink so much it was difficult to launch lifeboats, while some said they saw holiday-makers leaping into the water to swim to safety.
At least three bodies have been recovered from the sea. Fourteen people are believed to have minor injuries such as bruising.
The Foreign Office said it was not aware of any injuries or fatalities to Britons. One hundred and twenty nine Americans are believed to have been on board.
Among the dead was a man around age 65, who officials believe may not have been able to withstand the cold of the sea at night.
Submerged: Passengers said it was difficult to launch lifeboats as they ship had listed so much but fortunately ferries arrived to rescue them
Collision: Rocks embedded in the ruptured side of the Costa Concordia reveal the extent of the damage to the hull
Close-up: A woman looks at the cruise ship as it lies half in the water off the coast of Italy. Three people have been killed
It is thought that the death toll may still rise and there are reports some people are still not accounted for.
Terrified passengers were ordered to put on life vests and man life boats as the 850ft-long luxury 'floating palace', which costs up to £1,200 a night, began to list heavily to one side by about 20 degrees.
Helicopters plucked to safety some 50 people who were trapped on the liner.
By this morning, the ship was lying virtually flat off the coast, its starboard side submerged in the water.
Waiting game: A passenger took this photo of a group of passengers in life-jackets on board the liner as they waited to be rescued
Darkness: The hull of the massive Costa Concordia was damaged as it ran aground and water began pouring in
'We were having dinner aboard when we heard a loud noise, like that of the keel being dragged over something,' passenger Luciano Castro told Italian state radio.
The lights went out 'and there were scenes of panic, glasses falling to the floor,' he said.
Another passenger Mara Parmegiani said 'it was like a scene from the Titanic.'
Passengers complained the crew failed to give instructions on how to evacuate and once the emergency became clear, delayed lowering the lifeboats until the ship was listing too heavily for many of them to be released.
The evacuation drill was only scheduled for Saturday afternoon, even though some passengers had already been on board for several days.
Disaster: The Costa Concordia lies partly submerged this morning after hitting rocks. So passengers were rescued by helicopter
Worried: Passengers in life jackets, blankets and coats arrive on the ferry this morning following the disaster off the coast of Tuscany last night
Rescue: A Carabinieri boat approaches the Costa Concordia as it lies partly submerged in the water off the coast of Tuscany
Passengers spoke of having to crawl along near vertical hallways and stairwells to escape the ship as it began to take on more and more water
Melissa Goduti, 28, of Wallingford, Connecticut, said: 'It was so unorganized, our evacuation drill was scheduled for 5pm. We had joked what if something had happened today.'
'Have you seen 'Titanic?' That's exactly what it was,' said Valerie Ananias, 31, a schoolteacher from Los Angeles who was traveling with her sister and parents on the first of two cruises around the Mediterranean.
They all bore dark red bruises on their knees from the desperate crawl they endured along hallways and stairwells that were nearly vertical, trying to reach rescue boats.
'We were crawling up a hallway, in the dark, with only the light from the life vest strobe flashing,' her mother, Georgia Ananias, 61, said. 'We could hear plates and dishes crashing, people slamming against walls.'
Rescue workers help a woman at Porto Santo Stefano, after the cruise ship began sinking last night. No Britons are believed to have been injured or killed
Three passengers huddle in blankets as they arrive on a ferry in Porto Santo Stefano. Twenty-four Britons were on board
She choked up as she recounted the moment when an Argentine couple handed her their three-year-old daughter, unable to keep their balance as the ship lurched to the side and the family found themselves standing on a wall.
Mrs Ananias said: 'I grabbed the baby. But then I was being pushed down. I didn't want the baby to fall down the stairs. I gave the baby back. I couldn't hold her.
'I thought that was the end and I thought they should be with their baby,' she said.
The family said they were some of the last off the ship, forced to shimmy along a rope down the exposed side of the ship to a waiting rescue vessel.
Survivor Christine Hammer, from Bonn, Germany, shivered near the harbor of Porto Santo Stefano, on the mainland, after stepping off a ferry from Giglio.
The evacuees were taking refuge in schools, hotels, and a church on the tiny island of Giglio, a popular holiday isle about 18 miles off Italy's central west coast
Distressed: Passengers arrive at Porto Santo Stefano visibly upset by the tragedy including this woman, right
She was wearing elegant dinner clothes — a cashmere sweater, a silk scarf — along with a large pair of hiking boots, which an islander gave her after she lost her shoes in the scramble to escape, along with her passport, credit cards and phone.
Hammer, 65, said that she was eating her first course, an appetizer of squid, on her first night aboard her first-ever cruise, which was a gift to her and her husband, Gert, from her local church where she volunteers.
Suddenly, 'we heard a crash. Glasses and plates fell down and we went out of the dining room and we were told it wasn't anything dangerous,' she said.
The passengers were instructed to put on life jackets and take to the life rafts but, Hammer said, they couldn't get into the boats, because the cruise liner was tilting so much the boats couldn't be lowered into the cold, night sea.
The passengers were eventually rescued by one of several boats in the area that came to their aid.
The evacuees were taking refuge in schools, hotels, and a church on the tiny island of Giglio, a popular holiday isle about 18 miles off Italy's central west coast.
Those evacuated by helicopter were flown to Grosseto, while others, rescued by local ferries pressed into emergency service, took survivors to the port of Porto Santo Stefano on the nearby mainland.
'It was terrible,' Hammer said, as German and Spanish tourists were about to board buses at the port.
Fabio Costa, who worked in a shop on the stricken cruise ship, said a number of people were jumping into the sea to swim ashore.
Rescue workers helps a woman as she is lead to safety at Porto Santo Stefano. Lifeboats had difficulty launching
A police officer holds a baby wrapped in a blanket, left, while distressed passengers huddle in blankets after being rescued from the sinking liner
'A FLOATING TEMPLE THAT WILL AMAZE YOU': COSTA CONCORDIA
Describing the moment the boat began to list, he told BBC Breakfast: 'We were all working and all of a sudden we felt the boat hitting something and everything just started to fall, all the glasses broke and everybody started to panic and run.
'We could only feel that the boat had hit something, we had no idea how serious it was until we got out and we looked through the window and we saw the water getting closer and closer. Everything happened really, really fast and we saw the water coming in.'
Mr Costa said that once the emergency alarm was set off people started to panic and push each other in a bid to get into lifeboats.
'A lot of people were falling down the stairs and were hurt because things fell on them,' he added.
He said: 'We just saw a huge rock, that was probably where the ship hit, and people were having huge trouble trying to get on the lifeboats.
'So at that point we didn't know what to do so it took hours for people to get off the ship.
'It was easier for people to jump into the sea because we were on the same level as that water so some people pretty much just decided to swim as they were not able to get on the lifeboats.'
As dawn neared, a painstaking search of the ship's interior was being conducted to see if anyone might have been trapped inside.
Coast Guard Commander Francesco Paolillo said: 'No one is leaning out, shouting, calling that they need help, but until the inspection is completed, we won't know.'
Terrified: Passengers are seen in a rescue boat of the stranded cruise ship Costa Concordia near the island of Giglio wearing orange life vests
Coastguard officials confirmed that 3,200 passengers were onboard at the time along with 1,000 crew members and all had been evacuated by lifeboat and taken to the island of Giglio
Operation: Rescue boats of the stranded cruise ship Costa Concordia arrive in the harbour and dozens of passengers are pictured on the quayside
Nautilus International, the union which represents 23,000 ship masters, officers, ratings and other shipping industry staff - said the Italian-flagged cruise ship was the latest in a series to highlight its long-standing concerns over safety.
General Secretary Mark Dickinson said Nautilus is concerned about the 'rapid recent increases in the size of passenger ships' - with the average tonnage doubling over the past decade.
TRAGEDY AT SEA: OTHER FAMOUS VESSEL DISASTERS
'Many ships are now effectively small towns at sea, and the sheer number of people onboard raises serious questions about evacuation,' Mr Dickinson said.
'Insurers and salvors have also spoken about the way in which the sheer size and scale of such ships presents massive challenges for emergency services, evacuation, rescue, and salvage - and we should not have to wait for a major disaster until these concerns are addressed.'
Mr Dickinson added: 'We believe that more attention needs to be given to such issues as the adequacy of life-saving appliances, and the quality and quantity of crews and their training and experience in operating these vessels and dealing with emergency situations, including evacuation.'
Nautilus says it is essential that inquiries into the Costa Concordia grounding examine reports of an electrical problem onboard and urged investigators to examine human factor issues including seafarers' working hours and adequate manning of the bridge and engine room.
Investigations also need to focus on crew competence and training issues, Mr Dickinson added.
A spokesman for the Passenger Shipping Association said: 'Incidents of this nature are isolated and very rare.'
'Ships' crews undertake rigorous training, drills and scenarios for emergency situations including the evacuation of a vessel.
'The ships themselves comply with stringent regulations and procedures from the governing maritime authorities covering every aspect of their build and operation.
'While the focus should rightly be on attending to the immediate incident at hand there will, of course, be a full and thorough investigation into the causes of this event and the full cooperation of both the company and the wider industry is assured.'
Mr Paolillo said the exact circumstances of the accident were still unclear.
He said first alarm went off about 10:30pm, about two hours after the Concordia had begun its voyage from the port of Civitavecchia, en route to its first port of call, Savona, in northwestern Italy.
He said said the vessel 'hit an obstacle' — it wasn't clear if it might have hit a rocky reef in the waters off Giglio — 'ripping a gash 50 meters (160 feet) across' on the left side of the ship, and started taking on water.
The captain then tried to steer his ship toward shallow waters, near Giglio's small port, to make evacuation by lifeboat easier.
But after the ship started listing badly, lifeboat evacuation was no longer feasible, Mr Paolillo said.
About 3,200 passengers were on board at the time along with 1,000 crew members. All were evacuated.
By 1.20am local time, this had been virtually completed and officials said that the liner was listing at an angle of 20 degrees but it was not in danger of sinking.
A webcam on the website of Costa Cruises showed the position of the £450million six-year-old Concordia just off the coast near Giglio with a caption reading: 'Data transmission is temporarily suspended.'
A statement in the early hours from Costa Cruises, the company that runs the ship, confirmed that the evacuation of the 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew had begun.
The statement said: 'but the position of the ship, which is worsening, is making more difficult the last part of the evacuation.'
Costa Cruises' statement did not mention any casualties, and said it had not yet determined the cause of the problem.
The company said the Costa Concordia was sailing on a cruise across the Mediterranean Sea, starting from Civitavecchia with scheduled calls to Savona, Marseille, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Cagliari and Palermo.
It said about 1,000 Italian passengers were onboard, as well as more than 500 Germans, about 160 French and about 1,000 crew members.
The Foreign Office said it was working 'urgently' to identify Britons, and a consular team had been sent to Italy.
A spokesman said: 'We are in close contact with the local authorities and are working urgently to identify British nationals involved.
'A consular team from the British Embassy will shortly be in the area to provide consular assistance.'