Daily Israel Report

Italian Cruise Ship Sinks, Missing and Dead

Search teams are racing against time to find and rescue missing cruise passengers and crew from waters of the Mediterranean near Italy.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 1/14/2012, 8:03 PM

Search teams are racing against time to rescue people from the icy waters off Italy's western coast after the Costa Concordia cruise ship sank Friday night with more than 4,000 people aboard.

What should have been a wonderful cruise around the Mediterranean began in the port of Civitavecchia, about 50 miles from Rome, but quickly became a nightmare when the 1,500-cabin luxury vessel ran aground on a sandbar off the small island of Giglio.

The ship was carrying 3,200 passengers, mostly from Italy, France, Britain and Germany, and a crew of 1,000. Three people have already been confirmed dead and 14 others were injured in the incident, authorities said. The Coast Guard of Italy is continuing to search the chilly waters, as the chances grow slimmer that missing passengers might survive the long hours in the sea.

Up to 70 people are still listed as missing, but authorities said that some of those could be in private houses, in a hospital or on the island of Giglio itself. A number of people took shelter in the local church, a school and a hotel on the island.

The cause of the accident is still unknown and it is also not clear why the ship  did not call for assistance as it ran aground and was knocked on to its side. Coast Guard investigator Porto Santo Stefano told reporters he had questioned Captain Francesco Schettino on what had happened to his ship.

"At the moment we cannot rule out that the ship had some kind of technical problem and for this reason moved towards the coast in order to save the passengers, crew and the ship," Stefano said. "But they didn't send a mayday. The ship got in contact with us once the evacuation procedures were already in process," he noted. Fear and panic are understandable in a ship more than 300 meters long, with more than 4,000 people," he added.

The tragedy just three months and a day before the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, a flurry of tweets noted on the Twitter social networking site.

Two years ago, another ship from the same firm had an accident near Sharm El - Sheikh, killing three crew members.