Italy cruise ship Costa Concordia aground near Giglio:The Independent’s travel editor Simon Calder: ”It is unbelievable … that this should happen to a 21st Century ship”
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.Most people reached land by lifeboats but some swam to shore.At least 50 people have not yet been accounted for, Italian officials say, but they caution that the passenger list may not be fully up to date.Coast guard vessels are combing the waters around the ship, while divers are searching the submerged decks.
The regional prefect’s office said 4,165 out of 4,234 people on board had been accounted for, the Italian news agency Ansa reported.Italian, German, French and British nationals were among the 3,200 passengers on board. There were also 1,000 crew.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. Fourteen people were injured. The Costa Concordia was carrying more than 3,200 passengers when it ran aground off the Italian coast.Tanja Berto, from Ebenfurth, Austria, was shuttled from one line to another with her mother and 2-year-old son Bruno, trying to figure out how to get back to Savona, where they began their cruise a week ago.
“It’s his birthday today,” she said of her son, rolling her eyes as she held Bruno and tended to her mother, who had grown faint and was lying on the ground. “Happy birthday, Bruno.”
Survivors far outnumbered Giglio’s 1,500 residents, and island Mayor Sergio Ortelli issued an appeal for islanders — “anyone with a roof” — to open their homes to shelter the evacuees.Paolillo said the exact circumstances of the accident were still unclear, but that the first alarm went off about 10:30 p.m., about three 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.
The coast guard official, speaking from the port captain’s office in the Tuscan port of Livorno, 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” in the side of the ship, and started taking on water.
The cruise liner’s captain, Paolillo said, 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, Paolillo said.
Five helicopters, from the coast guard, navy and air force, were taking turns airlifting survivors still aboard and ferrying them to safely. A coast guard member was airlifted aboard the vessel to help people get aboard a small basket so they could be hoisted up to the helicopter, said Capt. Cosimo Nicastro, another Coast Guard official.Costa Cruises 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 Concordia had a previous accident in Italian waters, ANSA reported. In 2008, when strong winds buffeted Palermo, the cruise ship banged against the Sicilian port’s dock, and suffered damage but no one was injured, ANSA said.
Dozens missing from stricken Italian cruise ship