Cruise Disaster: Three Dead in Italian Shipwreck
Only hours after leaving port on Friday night, the Costa Concordia luxury cruise ship ran ashore in Italy. The ship had been carrying hundreds of passengers from Italy, Germany and France. At least three are dead in the disaster.
The passengers who had booked passage in the close to 1,500 cabins of the Costa Concordia had been promised an "unforgettable experience." The European cruise company's current commercial states: "At Costa, every day begins with a new discovery." For the close to 4,200 people on board the highly modern ship, those words couldn't have brought much comfort on Friday.
Three hours after the ship left the port of Civitavecchia on Friday night, the 290-meter-long (951 feet long) vessel ran aground at 10 p.m. off the coast of Tuscany in Italy. Some passengers on board described the accident as being "like a scene from the Titanic."
Following a massive jolt, the Costa Concordia began to list steeply. Glasses, plates and chairs fell to the floor. Many passengers were in the ship's restaurant at the time of the accident. "We were sitting at our table as the lights went out. Suddenly we heard a loud noise, as if the keel of this ship had run over something," journalist Luciano Castro said. "There were scenes of panic."
Many passengers jumped into the cold water in order to swim to Giglio island. A 70 year old suffered from a heart attack and died. By Saturday morning, Italian coast guard officials confirmed they had pulled bodies from the water. Reports that three other people had died have not been officially confirmed. Around 50 people are reportedly missing, but is unclear whether the missing had been rescued or not.
'It Was So Disorganized'
One German passenger who was on board the Costa Concordia, 65-year-old Christine Hammer of Bonn, said she and her husband had been on their first ever cruise. "We went into the dining hall and we were told that there was no danger," Hammer told a reporter after her rescue.
Others claimed that no instructions had been given to passengers after they boarded the ship on how to exit the vessel in an emergency. An emergency drill had first been planned for Saturday. By then, though, the disaster had already long passed. "It was so disorganized," said Melissa Goduti. "Our evacuation drill had been scheduled for 5 p.m. We even made jokes about what to do if something happened on Friday," the 28-year-old said.
Passengers claim the ship's crew failed to even inform them what had happened to the ship. Christine Hammer said passengers had been instructed to put on life vests and proceed to the rescue boats, but the vessels could not be lowered down to the water because the ship was listing so badly. In the end, passengers were rescued in the dark using boats from the region. "It was terrible," said Hammer.
People at the scene said the rescue had been completely unstructured. French passenger Ophélie Gondelle, who had boarded the ship in France on Jan. 8, said nobody had even counted the number of passengers being rescued -- "neither on the rescue boats or ashore." She also echoed complaints that no safety exercises had been conducted.
4,200 on Board
At the time of the accident, the Costa Concordia had been carrying more than 4,200 people, with around 1,000 Italian passengers, more than 500 Germans, around 160 French, a few Spanish and close to 1,000 crew members. At least three people have been confirmed dead and three others reported missing.
At the time of her rescue, Hammer of Bonn was wearing the dress she had chosen for dinner. On Saturday, she stood in the same dress in the frosty winter weather near Porto Santo Stefano, where she had been taken by a ferry. She said local residents had given her a pair of shoes after she lost hers during the rescue. She also lost her passport, her credit cards and telephone.
"This is a tragedy," Costa spokesman Werner Claasen said. "We will do everything we can to get people home quickly -- either by bus or plane." He said passengers were currently being cared for at different locations and that the company expected to release further information later on Saturday.
dsl -- with wires
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