Desperate search for cruise survivors continues

Rome (dpa) – Rescuers have found two survivors after at least three people died and dozens more went missing after a cruise ship ran aground off Italy’s western coast, Italian news agency ANSA reported after midnight Sunday morning.

Rescue teams discovered two survivors, an Asian man and woman, reported ANSA. The search for survivors – including the deployment of divers – would continue overnight, said rescue official Luca Cari.

The ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, was taken into custody, ANSA reported, citing a prosecutor in the Tuscan city of Grossetto, Francesco Verusio.

Earlier, Schettino had been questioned by investigators trying to determine the causes of the accident.

More than 20 hours after the accident occurred, government officials indicated that many people who had been on board the Costa Concorida were still unaccounted for.

However, the officials said that they were revising downwards the number of people reported as missing – at one stage more than 70 – as survivors were gradually tallied.

The bodies of the three people who died were identified as two French passengers and one Peruvian crew member.

The three, all men, are thought to have drowned after the Costa Concordia ran aground late Friday near the Isola del Giglio, an island off Italy’s western shore.

“It is a dangerous and very difficult operation,” rescue official Cari told television news channel Sky TG24.

He was referring to efforts to explore the inside of the 290-metre-long, 114,500-ton Costa Concordia which was half-submerged and listing 80 degrees, with a gaping crack down its hull.

The ship’s Genoa-based owner said 4,229 people had been on board at the time of the accident – 3,216 passengers and 1,013 crew members.

Around 40 passengers were receiving hospital treatment. Two of the injured were in a serious condition, ANSA reported.

The Costa Concordia had set off on Friday from the port of Civitavecchia, near Rome, for the start of a Mediterranean cruise, when its crew signaled an electrical fault to port authorities.

Officials said that the Genoa-based vessel may have veered from its course when it struck a shoal off Giglio island, rolling onto one side.

The shipowner said it was not immediately “possible to determine the cause of the problem.”

The vessel’s passengers included 989 Italians, 569 Germans, 462 French, and nationals from more than 50 countries including Japan, Brazil and Australia, Costa Crociere said.

Passengers said all lights aboard the vessel suddenly went out while they were having dinner.

“Then we heard a bang and a roar and the cutlery fell to the ground,” Luciana Castro, a journalist on board, told Ansa.

“It was like a scene from the Titanic,” added Mara Parmegiani, another journalist, in a reference to the famous passenger liner that sunk almost 100 years ago, on April 15, 1912.
dpa pwm hm mjr