More Than 4,000 People rescued, 40 Still Missing As Mediterranean Cruise Liner Capsizes

Rome, Jan 15 : Divers  on Saturday night searching the Italian luxury cruise liner that capsized in the Mediterranean, pulled two people alive from the wreckage amid fears that more passengers were left trapped inside.More
more than 4 000 people rescued 40 still missing...
PTI January 15, 2012 11:36 IST

Rome, Jan 15 : Divers  on Saturday night searching the Italian luxury cruise liner that capsized in the Mediterranean, pulled two people alive from the wreckage amid fears that more passengers were left trapped inside.

More than 4,000 people were rescued when the Costa Concordia ran aground off the coast of Tuscany on Friday, leaving two passengers and a crew member confirmed dead. But last night up to 40 people were still missing, Daily Mail reported.

The Concordia's captain, Francesco Schettino, and first officer Ciro Ambrosio were detained last night at the police station in Porto Santo Stefano on the Italian mainland, as they faced continuing questioning about the events leading up to the disaster. Prosecutors are investigating possible charges of multiple manslaughter and abandoning the ship while passengers were still in danger.

Italian media reported that a man and a woman had been located alive on board the stricken ship. It is said the survivors were on the deck levels above the water line and a team of firefighters had been sent on board the vessel to rescue them.

Prosecutor  Francesco Verusio said the Concordia had approached the tiny island of Giglio ‘the wrong way', while sources said that the 52-year-old captain, from Naples, had abandoned the ship at around 11.30pm local time – about an hour after it struck a rocky outcrop and started taking in water – while the last passengers were not taken to safety until 3am yesterday morning.

As the liner lay virtually flat on its starboard side last night, a 160ft gash visible on its upturned hull, rescue workers raised the possibility that there may still be bodies in the submerged section.

Fire services spokesman Luca Cari said specialist diving teams would ‘check all the interior spaces of the ship' and added: ‘We don't rule out the possibility that more people will be lost.'

One report said last night that 29 Filipino kitchen workers were feared trapped in the bowels of the 951ft, £390 million Concordia.

Last night concerns were raised about the chaos and confusion on board and the delays in evacuating the vessel.

It was also suggested that the passenger list may not have been kept up to date, which might account for some of those missing.

Recounting scenes reminiscent of the film Titanic, survivors spoke of crawling in darkness along upended hallways and stairwells as crockery and glasses smashed around them.

There were also reports of passengers wearing life jackets over evening dress jumping overboard into the cold, night sea and trying to swim ashore.

One of the most dramatic accounts of the night came from 22-year-old Rose Metcalf, from Dorset, who was among the last few people to leave the vessel.

She was one of eight British dancers working on the Concordia and spoke of hanging on to a water hose which a friend had tied to the ship's handrail when it began to list.

Later, after being rescued by helicopter, she left a message for her father saying: ‘I don't know how many are dead. I am alive .  .  . just. I think I was the last one off.' All 37 Britons on board were believed safe last night.

The ship was on a Mediterranean cruise starting from the Italian city of Civitavecchia with scheduled calls at Savona, Cagliari and Palermo, all also in Italy; Marseilles in France; and Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

As divers searched areas of the ship that were now underwater, there was some concern for their safety if the vessel shifted.

‘It is a very delicate operation because the ship might move or sink farther,' said a spokesman for Italy's coastguard. ‘This could endanger the divers, trapping them inside the wreck.'

Many of the passengers were sitting down to eat in the Concordia's restaurants when they heard a loud bang followed by a ‘terrible groaning' noise.

Diners were instructed to remain seated even as the ship began listing. According to the captain, the ship had an electrical problem. But although it soon became clear that the problem was far worse, passengers continued to be told for a good 45 minutes that there was a simple technical problem.

Even when the situation became clearer crew members delayed lowering the lifeboats even though the ship was listing badly. ‘We had to scream at the controllers to release the boats from the side,' said Mike van Dijk, a 54-year-old from Pretoria, South Africa. ‘We were standing in the corridors and they weren't allowing us to get on to the boats. It was a scramble, an absolute scramble.'

Robert Elcombe, 50, from Colchester but who now lives in Australia, said he and his wife Tracy got into a life boat – but were ordered out again when staff said it was ‘only a generator problem' that could be fixed.

He said: ‘But as we got back inside the ship it tilted so steeply that I had to grab hold of  people to save them as they flew down the corridor. It was real Titanic stuff. We lost everything: passports, luggage, money. But  at least we're alive, unlike some people.'

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