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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Desperate hunt for survivors of capsized cruise liner continues as two are plucked from the stricken vessel... and rescue workers make contact with a

-Captain held on suspicion of manslaughter as three passengers die
-Passengers tell of 'chaos' as crew members said 'go back to your cabins'
-Survivors leapt for their lives into the icy sea as the liner rolled onto its side
-Boat was 'four miles off course' when it hit rocks
-Bodies of two French passengers and a Peruvian crewman recovered
-One victim, 65, died from heart attack following shock of cold water
-Liner had listed so badly 'lifeboats had difficulty being launched'
-37 Britons on board but none believed to have died or been injured

By Ian Gallagher, Nick Pisa and Emily Allen

Lucky to be alive: Newlyweds from South Korea are led to safety by Italian firefighters after rescue workers found them trapped in the partly sunk ship this morning

The desperate hunt for survivors on board the luxury Italian cruise liner that capsized in the Mediterranean continued today as rescue workers plucked a honeymooning couple alive from the wreckage.

It comes as firefighters said this morning that a third survivor - the ship's cabin service director - had been located inside the cruise ship and voice contact had been made with him.

More than 4,000 people were evacuated when the Costa Concordia ran aground off the coast of Tuscany on Friday night, leaving two French passengers and a Peruvian crew member confirmed dead. But this morning 38 people were still missing.

The man and woman, both 29 from South Korea, were honeymooning on board the liner and became stranded two decks below rescuers when the vessel became semi-submerged. Thirty-five people took 90 minutes to bring them to safety in the early hours of this morning after hearing their screams.

The newlyweds told firefighters they had not seen or heard any other survivors during the 24 hours they were trapped.

Meanwhile, the Concordia’s captain, Francesco Schettino, and first officer Ciro Ambrosio were detained last night at the police station in Porto Santo Stefano on the Italian mainland, as they faced continuing questioning about the events leading up to the disaster. Prosecutors are investigating possible charges of multiple manslaughter and abandoning the ship while passengers were still in danger.


Rescue: The Costa Concordia is pictured this morning as rescuers in a boat co-ordinate the rescue effort during the desperate hunt for more survivors

Danger: Italian firefighters' scuba divers approach the Costa Concordia as they prepare to enter it to track down survivors and any of the 40 missing people

Screams: Rescue workers heard this South Korean man and his wife screaming and took 90 minutes to free them. The 29-year-old is pictured getting off a ferry to safety

Waiting game: Hundreds of passengers in life jackets are pictured on board the Costa Concordia on Friday night as they wait to be rescued from the stricken vessel

Italian Coast Guard personnel recover the black box from the Costa Condordia cruise ship that ran aground off the west coast of Italy

Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia carrying more than 4,000 people ran aground and keeled over off the Italian coast near the island of Giglio in Tuscany, Italy, last night

The Costa Concordia after the evacuation off the Itaiian coast had been completed. Tonight Captain Francesco Schettino was being quizzed by police

The cruise ship that ran aground is seen off the west coast of Italy as a helicopter hovers above to try and find passengers

The damage to the vessel can be seen quite clearly

The captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, Francesco Schettino is taken into custody in Grosseto, Italy

Italian news agency Ansa said 4,165 out of the 4,234 people on-board were safe but did not know the whereabouts of the remaining 69

Lifeboats are pictured in the foreground. Among the dead was a man around age 65, who officials believe may not have been able to withstand the cold of the sea at night

Prosecutor Francesco Verusio said the Concordia had approached the tiny island of Giglio ‘the wrong way’, while sources said that the 52-year-old captain, from Naples, had abandoned the ship at around 11.30pm local time – about an hour after it struck a rocky outcrop and started taking in water – while the last passengers were not taken to safety until 3am yesterday morning.

As the liner lay virtually flat on its starboard side last night, a 160ft gash visible on its upturned hull, rescue workers raised the possibility that there may still be bodies in the submerged section.

Fire services spokesman Luca Cari said specialist diving teams would ‘check all the interior spaces of the ship’ and added: ‘We don’t rule out the possibility that more people will be lost.’

Two of the confirmed victims were French and the third victim was named as Tomas Alberto Costilla Mendoza, a crewman aged 49, from Peru.

One report said last night that 29 Filipino kitchen workers were feared trapped in the bowels of the 951ft, £390 million Concordia.

Last night concerns were raised about the chaos and confusion on board and the delays in evacuating the vessel.

It was also suggested that the passenger list may not have been kept up to date, which might account for some of those missing.

Recounting scenes reminiscent of the film Titanic, survivors spoke of crawling in darkness along upended hallways and stairwells as crockery and glasses smashed around them.

The Concordia's grounding should serve as a wake-up call to the shipping industry and those who regulate it, the maritime professionals' union Nautilus International said

Passengers spoke of having to crawl along near vertical hallways and stairwells to escape the ship as it began to take on more and more water

There were also reports of passengers wearing life jackets over evening dress jumping overboard into the cold, night sea and trying to swim ashore.

One of the most dramatic accounts of the night came from 22-year-old Rose Metcalf, from Dorset, who was among the last few people to leave the vessel.

She was one of eight British dancers working on the Concordia and spoke of hanging on to a water hose which a friend had tied to the ship’s handrail when it began to list.

Later, after being rescued by helicopter, she left a message for her father saying: ‘I don’t know how many are dead. I am alive .  .  . just. I think I was the last one off.’ All 37 Britons on board were believed safe last night.

The ship was on a Mediterranean cruise starting from the Italian city of Civitavecchia with scheduled calls at Savona, Cagliari and Palermo, all also in Italy; Marseilles in France; and Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

As divers searched areas of the ship that were now underwater, there was some concern for their safety if the vessel shifted.

‘It is a very delicate operation because the ship might move or sink farther,’ said a spokesman for Italy’s coastguard. ‘This could endanger the divers, trapping them inside the wreck.’

Many of the passengers were sitting down to eat in the Concordia’s restaurants when they heard a loud bang followed by a ‘terrible groaning’ noise.

Diners were instructed to remain seated even as the ship began listing. According to the captain, the ship had an electrical problem. But although it soon became clear that the problem was far worse, passengers continued to be told for a good 45 minutes that there was a simple technical problem.

Even when the situation became clearer crew members delayed lowering the lifeboats even though the ship was listing badly. ‘We had to scream at the controllers to release the boats from the side,’ said Mike van Dijk, a 54-year-old from Pretoria, South Africa. ‘We were standing in the corridors and they weren’t allowing us to get on to the boats. It was a scramble, an absolute scramble.’

Robert Elcombe, 50, from Colchester but who now lives in Australia, said he and his wife Tracy got into a life boat – but were ordered out again when staff said it was ‘only a generator problem’ that could be fixed. He said: ‘But as we got back inside the ship it tilted so steeply that I had to grab hold of people to save them as they flew down the corridor. It was real Titanic stuff. We lost everything: passports, luggage, money. But at least we’re alive, unlike some people.’

Close-up: A woman looks at the cruise ship as it lies half in the water off the coast of Italy. Three people have been killed

Disaster: The Costa Concordia lies partly submerged this morning after hitting rocks. So passengers were rescued by helicopter

A woman is cared for by a rescue worker and a child is taken to safety. Thousands of people have been affected by the incident

Rescue workers help a woman as she is led to safety at Porto Santo Stefano. Lifeboats had difficulty launching

Passengers arrive at Porto Santo Stefano

The evacuees were taking refuge in schools, hotels, and a church on the tiny island of Giglio, a popular holiday isle about 18 miles off Italy's central west coast

Georgia Ananias, 61, from Los Angeles, recalled crawling along a hallway as the ship began to upturn. She said an Argentine couple handed her their three-year-old daughter, as they were unable to keep their balance. ‘I grabbed the baby. But then I was being pushed down,’ she said. ‘I didn’t want the baby to fall down the stairs.

I gave the baby back. I couldn’t hold her. I thought that was the end and I thought they should be with their baby. I wonder where they are.’

Passengers Alan and Laurie Willits from Ontario said they were watching the magic show in the ship’s main theatre when they felt an initial lurch, followed a few seconds later by a shudder.

They said the ship then listed and the theatre curtains seemed like they were standing on their side. ‘And then the magician disappeared,’ said Mr Willits.

When he left the stage it panicked the audience members who fled for their cabins.

A Carabinieri boat approaches the Costa Concordia as it lies partly submerged in the water off the coast of Tuscany

Collision: Rocks embedded in the ruptured side of the Costa Concordia reveal the extent of the damage to the hull

There were reports last night that captain Schettino, had been dining with passengers when the accident happened – but the ship’s operating company, Costa Crociera, said he was on the bridge.

He then discovered that the ship was four miles off course, but was unsure why. One theory is that an electrical fault had wiped out the ship’s navigational power and steering control. Captain Schettino told investigators that charts showed he was in waters deep enough to navigate.

He was quoted as saying: ‘The area was safe, the water was deep enough. We struck a stretch of rock that was not marked on the charts. As far as I am concerned, we were in perfectly navigable waters.’

Francesco Paolillo, a coastguard commander, said the vessel ‘hit an obstacle’, ripping a gash across the left side of the ship, which started taking on water. He said the captain tried to steer his ship toward shallow waters, near Giglio’s small port, to make evacuation by lifeboat easier.

But when Captain Schettino realised the severity of the situation, he gave the order to abandon ship with seven short whistles.

Within minutes the Costa Concordia, began to list dramatically, reaching an angle of 20 degrees in just two hours. The angle became too steep for lifeboat evacuation, and instead, five helicopters from the coastguard, navy and air force airlifted the last 50 passengers still aboard.

By early morning, nine hours after the incident, the Costa Concordia, was at an angle of more than 80 degrees.

Officials last night said the dead were a Peruvian crew member and two French tourists.

One Italian passenger said: ‘There was just utter chaos and panic. No one from the crew seemed to know what they were doing.

‘No one counted us, neither in the life boats nor on land,’ said Ophelie Gondelle, 28, a French military officer. She said there had been no evacuation drill since she boarded on January 8.

The evacuees initially took refuge in schools, hotels and a church on the tiny island of Giglio, about 18 miles off Italy’s west coast. Mayor Sergio Ortelli issued an appeal for ‘anyone with a roof’ to open their homes to survivors. By yesterday afternoon they had all been flown to the mainland.

Gashed open: The hull of the massive Costa Concordia was gashed open as it ran aground, killing at least eight and injuring dozens more

Operation: Rescue boats of the stranded cruise ship Costa Concordia arrive in the harbour and dozens of passengers are pictured on the quayside

Coastguard officials confirmed that 3,200 passengers were onboard at the time along with 1,000 crew members and all had been evacuated by lifeboat and taken to the island of Giglio

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source: dailymail


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