A luxury cruise liner has run aground close to the Tuscan coast, resulting in at least three deaths and an unknown number of injuries. According to the Italian coastguard, the incident resulted in a huge gash splitting open the hull of the vessel, leading to the evacuation of 4,200 passengers and crew on board at the time.
Three bodies were later pulled from the sea and reports of a further three fatalities are yet to be confirmed by the Italian authorities.
At least 50 people had to be rescued from the Costa Concordia by helicopter after the luxury liner listed so severely that it became impossible to use the ship’s lifeboats.
“We were having dinner aboard when we heard a loud noise, like that of the keel being dragged over something,” said Luciano Castro, a journalist onboard who spoke to the Associated Press following the incident, “and there were scenes of panic, glasses falling to the floor.”
Other passengers who had been expected an elite eight-day journey around the Mediterranean reported scenes similar to those of Titanic dramatizations. There were several apparent incidents of panicked passengers leaping from the Costa Concordia into the sea and swimming to nearby reefs for safety, though such reports are yet to be confirmed.
Toward the end of a horrific evening, a search of the near 300-meter vessels interior rooms and corridors began, as fears grew that an unknown number of passengers and crew may have become trapped inside. While the ship’s crew and Italian authorities stated that there were currently no cries or shouts for help originating from the ship, the search would go on until every last inch of the vessel was checked and cleared.
The interior of the Costa Concordia is comprised of no less than 2,000 cabins and hundreds of other public areas – all of which must now be tackled at an angle of 20 degrees.
It has not yet been made clear as to whether the known fatalities are passengers or crew members – their nationalities and causes of death are also yet to be made public. Initial injury reports are thought to be low and mostly of a minor nature, though at least two are known to be in a serious condition.
Of the 4,200 on board, 3,200 are known to have been passengers and around 1,000 ship’s crew members.
Italian authorities are currently attempting to carry out a painstakingly difficult roll-call to find out exactly who is present and who may still be on board or missing. All passengers and crew successfully evacuated were transported to the region’s local schools and hotels.
As the nearest island has a population numbering just over 1,500, the Mayor made a public call for anyone with a roof available to offer help while to those in need.
At the time of printing, the exact cause of the Costa Concordia’s collision remains unknown, though police have revealed that the alarm was raised as just after 22:30 local time.