It took 15 hours, but eventually the cruise ship Sea Diamond, which had struck rocks just off the coast off the popular Greek holiday island of Santorini on Thursday afternoon, sank beneath the Mediterranean just after 7 a.m. on Friday morning. The long lag time allowed plenty of time for the 1,600 people on board to evacuate as the Greek-flagged ship began listing to starboard. On Friday morning, however, a 45-year-old French man and his 16-year-old daughter were still missing.
"These are very tragic circumstances," Greek Tourism Minister Fanny Palli Petralia, who had talked to the French tourist's wife, told AP. "The lady said her cabin filled with water when the ship struck rocks and that she narrowly escaped She was not sure whether her husband and daughter made it out because things happened so suddenly. Her other child was up on deck and was evacuated safely."
The cruise ship, carrying vacationers largely from the US, Canada and Spain, had made stops at the Greek islands of Rhodes and Mykonos before steaming into the Santorini lagoon. Just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, the 143 meter (469 foot) cruise ship hit submerged rocks and began taking on water.
"A lot of us were taking pictures from when we were coming into Santorini. All of a sudden there was this big jolt," Catherine Small, a 17-year-old high school student from North Carolina, told AP. "The ship was really far tilted. It was actually kind of freaking us out. Scary."
The three hour rescue effort went off without a snag with passengers waiting patiently on deck to be transferred to waiting ships. A dozen ships, six navy helicopters, two military transport planes and four warships were involved in the evacuation. Indeed, the removal of the 1,195 passengers and 391 crew was so efficient that the Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis was patting himself on the back on Thursday. "No one had as much as a nose bleed," he said.
But on Friday, the two French passengers were reported missing. The lists of passengers was being rechecked to determine what may have become of the two. Many of the evacuated passengers had already been transferred to the main Athens port of Piraeus by Friday morning on a chartered ferry.