| Date Published: January 14, 2012 |
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|Passengers Evacuated After Costa Concordia Runs Aground|
(Updated 2:25 p.m. EDT) -- At least three people are dead and the toll could climb after Costa Concordia ran aground off the coast of Italy late Friday evening and began taking on water. More than 4,000 passengers and crew were evacuated from the vessel, in what has been widely described as a terrifying experience.
The Associated Press reports some 40 people are still unaccounted for, which is lower than previous estimates. About 40 injured survivors have been hospitalized.
On Saturday afternoon, Australian Cruise Critic member mickey65, who had been a passenger on the ill-fated cruise, contacted us by email: "We are all okay shaken and bruised with no money cards or anything else, very frustrated that Costa are doing very little for us." When pressed for details, mickey65 responded: "They have currently put us up at the Hilton Garden Inn at the Rome Airport, we have contacted our embassy and they are supposedly coming tonight to help us. Costa have made lots of promises all day but when someone from Costa Commercial came he brought nothing and told them that they would not be even giving us a change of clothes. After the way they handled the evacuation I am totally disgusted." She notes that she is with her 12-year-old.
We've contacted Costa Cruises for comment.
Further details continue to emerge on the evacuation, which was apparently a frenzied affair, with passengers and crew scrambling for lifeboats and some opting to jump overboard into cold water and swim to shore.
Concordia has a 165-foot gash on its left side, and details about what caused it emerged slowly January 14. In a statement released by Costa Cruises, the line says: "On the basis of the preliminary evidence, the ship Costa Concordia under the command of the Master Francesco Schettino was sailing as normal from Civitavecchia to Savona when suddenly the ship struck a rock." After the ship was damaged, the statement said, the captain "immediately performed a maneuver aimed to secure the guests and crew, and started the security procedures in order to prepare for an eventual ship evacuation."
Schettino, who was on the bridge at the time of the incident, steered the vessel toward the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, about 40 miles from Civitavecchia. The ship had been listing at 20 degrees before it capsized sometime overnight. Numerous photos and videos from the scene have been posted on the Cruise Critic boards.
Schettino, an 11-year Costa veteran, has been detained for questioning. According to CNN, investigators want to know why the ship never sent out a mayday, among other things.
Italian coast guard vessels continue to search the waters around the capsized vessel, though the diving operation within Concordia's submerged decks has been suspended for the night. The U.K.'s SKY News, quoting a coast guard official, says some or all those missing could be trapped inside "the belly of the ship." Most of the survivors have been transported to the mainland, though some are apparently still on the island.
This YouTube video uploaded by TheMopsi shows Repubblica TV footage of the scene, with the vessel on its side in shallow water.
About 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crewmembers were onboard when the ship began taking on water about 8 p.m. local time. The AP is reporting that the three who perished are two French passengers and a Peruvian crew member, the latter of which was confirmed by the Peruvian embassy. Costa said those onboard consisted of "about 1,000 of Italian nationality, over 500 Germans, about 160 French and 1,000 crew members."
In a statement posted on its Web site, Costa says "emergency procedures started promptly to evacuate the ship. The slope, gradually taken over by the ship, made the evacuation extremely difficult." The line says it's still focused on emergency efforts and providing assistance to those onboard, and that it "will fully co-operate with the relevant Authorities in order to determine the causes of what happened."
Reports are rampant that the evacuation was far from an orderly affair, with glass flying through the air and a rush for lifeboats.
The incident occurred at a peak dinnertime hour, recounts one passenger, who told the 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." Others were calling it a scene right out of "Titanic." Passengers -- including the Cruise Critic member quoted in this story -- are complaining they never received proper evacuation instructions and that the deployment of the lifeboats was delayed. By some reports, a full muster drill was to be conducted at 5 p.m. January 14, well after the ship set sail from Civitavecchia.
The Passenger Shipping Association, a trade group that promotes cruise and ferry travel in the United Kingdom, has released a statement calling the grounding an isolated incident, reports the trade publication Travel Weekly. "Incidents of this nature are isolated and very rare," the statement reads. "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."
Concordia began its ill-fated voyage in Civitavecchia (Rome), with stops planned in Marseilles, Barcelona and Palermo, among others. The ship launched in 2006 and introduced several concepts to the cruising world, including the first spa cabins and spa restaurant and the first race-car driving simulator (now a Costa standard).
This is the second time in two years a Costa ship has been involved in a deadly accident. In February 2010, Costa Europa hit a pier in Egypt, killing three crewmembers.
--by John Deiner, Managing Editor
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