Italian authorities are holding the captain of a 3,200-passenger cruise ship that ran aground and tipped over late Friday, killing at least three people, injuring 30 and leaving up to 40 others still missing. Survivors, meanwhile, described a chaotic evacuation as plates and glasses crashed, and they crawled along upended hallways trying to reach safety.Ouch.
Several media outlets citing Italian television reported that two survivors had been found inside the ship and firefighters were working early Sunday morning to rescue them. The ship's Italian captain, Francesco Schettino, was detained late Saturday and is being investigated for manslaughter and abandoning ship. The Associated Press reports Schettino is being held in a jail in Grosseto, Italy, until next week, when a judge will decide whether he should be released or formally put under arrest. In Italy, suspects can be held without charge for a few days for investigation.
The chief prosecutor in the Tuscan city of Grosseto, Francesco Verusio, was quoted by the ANSA news agency as telling reporters that the captain "very ineptly got close to Giglio," the AP reports.
Officials say the captain appears to have taken the vessel close to shore in a dangerous manner, Reuters says. "There was a dangerous close approach which very probably caused the accident, although it will be for the investigation to establish that fully," coast guard spokesman Luciano Nicastro told SkyTG24. He said the captain then attempted a safety maneuver, setting anchor and bringing the ship closer to the shore to facilitate a rescue. Authorities were looking at why the ship didn't hail a mayday during the accident near the Italian island of Giglio on Friday night. The ship is owned by Genoa-based Costa Cruises, a mass-market line that caters to an international clientele and whose parent company is the industry giant Carnival Corporation.Carnival, huh? Why does that not surprise me?
Three bodies — two French tourists and a crew member from Peru — were recovered from the sea after Costa Cruises' 6-year-old Costa Concordia ran aground near the coast of Tuscany late Friday, tearing a 160-foot gash in its hull and sending in a rush of water.
Costa said about 1,000 Italian passengers were onboard, as well as more than 500 Germans, 126 Americans, about 160 French and about 1,000 crew members. By morning Saturday, the ship was lying virtually flat off Giglio's coast, its starboard side submerged in the water and the huge gash showing clearly on its upturned hull.
The Friday the 13th grounding of the Concordia was one of the most dramatic cruise ship accidents in recent memory. It immediately raised a host of questions: Why did it hit a reef so close to the Tuscan island of Giglio? Did a power failure cause the crew to lose control? Did the captain — under investigation on manslaughter allegations — steer it in the wrong direction on purpose? And why did crew members tell passengers they weren't in danger until the boast was listing perilously to the side? The delay made lifeboat rescue eventually impossible for some of the passengers, some of whom jumped into the sea while others waited to be plucked to safety by helicopters. Some boats had to be cut down with an axe.The words of the news stories do not give the drama of this incident justice. Perhaps some pictures might:
|Costa Concordia lies on its starboard side after running aground on Isola del Giglio, off Italy's Tuscan coast. Not sure of origin of photo; it was on Wizbang.|
Particularly amazing are the pictures taken by Roberto Vongher:
|Italian police boat investigates the stricken passenger liner Costa Concordia. Photo by Roberto Vongher.|
If this incident and these pictures seem a bit ... familiar, they should:
|The Italian passenger liner Andre Doria heavily listing to starboard at dawn on July 26, 1956. She had collided with the Swedish passenger liner Stockholm in foggy conditions off Nantucket the night before. She sank at about 10 am local time. Photo taken by Ernie Melby from the William H. Thomas and posted on the Web site Andrea Doria Death Watch.|
Most of the crew of the Andrea Doria performed well in the crisis, but a major cause of controversy afterwards was the behavior of a significant part of that same crew, which panicked and abandoned ship first, leaving the passengers to fend for themselves. Some panic resulted among the passengers, which only increased the casualties. Those crewmen rescued by the Stockholm ahead of the passengers were apparently beat up. It was a major source of embarrassment to Italy.
So, when the captain of the stricken Costa Concordia is accused of bailing ahead of the passengers for whose safety he was responsible, you can bet the Italian government will take it very, very seriously. As they should.