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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Luxury Ship aground off Italy: 3 bodies found, 69 missing

Porto Santo Stefano, Italy — According to an Associated Press (AP) report, divers searched the submerged part of a luxury cruise liner that went aground off Italy's coast in case any of 70 people unaccounted for might be trapped inside, a coast guard official said on Saturday, as passengers described a delayed and terrifying evacuation.

Three bodies were recovered from the sea after the Costa Concordia ran aground off the tiny island of Giglio near the coast of Tuscany late Friday, tearing a 160-foot (50-meter) gash in its hull and sending in a rush of water.

One of the victims was a Peruvian crew member, a diplomat from the South American country said, adding that a Peruvian woman was also missing. The ANSA news agency identified the other two fatalities as French passengers, but didn't cite a source.

Passengers described a scene reminiscent of "Titanic", saying they escaped the ship by crawling along upended hallways, desperately trying to reach safety as the lights went out and plates and glasses crashed. Helicopters whisked some survivors to safety, others were rescued by private boats in the area, and witnesses said some people jumped from the ship into the dark, cold sea.

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.

Passengers complained the crew failed to give instructions on how to evacuate and once the emergency became clear, and delayed in lowering the lifeboats until the ship was listing too heavily for many of them to be released.


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