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.
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