(Updated 8:10AM EDT) After running aground off the coast of Italy Friday night, an unknown number of passengers are reported dead as a luxury cruise ship sinks and dawn reveals details of the tragic accident.
“It was like a scene from the Titanic,” journalist Mara Parmegian on board for what was to be an 8 day Mediterranean sailing told the ANSA news agency.
Costa Cruises Costa Concordia ran aground on a sand bank near the Italian island of Giglio, Italy sending water pouring in through a 160-foot gash in the hull and forcing the evacuation of over 4000 passengers and crew on the ship.
“We were having dinner aboard when we heard a loud noise, like that of the keel being dragged over something,” passenger Luciano Castro told Italian state radio early Saturday reports ajc. The lights went out “and there were scenes of panic, glasses falling to the floor,” Castro said.
Castro said it was reported that some passengers jumped into the sea in an attempt to swim to nearby Giglio island. Evacuation efforts were apparently complicated by the position of the listing ship, according to a Costa Cruises blog post.
Giuseppe Orsina, a spokesman for the local civil protection agency, told CNN: “We are verifying the different lists of passengers and staff that have been given to us from Costa and at the moment from 43 to 51 people are missing.
“It is a tragedy that deeply affects our company. Our first thoughts go to the victims and we would like to express our condolences and our closeness to their families and friends. In this moment all our efforts are focused on the completion of the last emergency operations, besides providing assistance to the guests and the crew who were onboard in order to have them going back home as soon as possible. The emergency procedures started promptly to evacuate the ship. The slope, gradually taken over by the ship, made the evacuation extremely difficult. We would like to express our profound gratitude to the Coast Guard and all the forces co-ordinated by the Coast Guard, including the authorities and citizens of the island “Isola del Giglio”, who have been involved in the rescue and assistance to guests and crew members. The company will fully co-operate with the relevant Authorities in order to determine the causes of what happened.”
Aerial video released later in the morning gives a better perspective at the scene of the accident. The cause is still unknown.
114,500 ton Costa Concordia was on a Mediterranean cruise from Rome with stops in Savona, Marseille, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Cagliari and Palermo. The ship was carrying 3,200 passengers and 1000 crew members. The passengers scheduled to embark today in Savona and in subsequent ports will be contacted directly by Costa Cruises.