Race to find survivors as three rescued after 36-hour ordeal
Published 16/01/2012 | 05:00
THREE people were dramatically rescued from the cruise ship off the Italian island of Giglio yesterday, hours before divers discovered two bodies floating inside the darkened hull.
A South Korean couple on their honeymoon were found alive when rescue officials heard their cries from inside a cabin on the Costa Concordia.
Rescuers celebrated another triumph a few hours later when Manrico Giampetroni, an Italian purser who worked on the ship, was winched to safety by a fire service helicopter.
Officials were still hearing voices within the stricken vessel, according to reports, suggesting there may be more survivors trapped inside.
Mr Giampetroni was flown to a hospital in nearby Grosseto, on the mainland, with a broken leg. "I never lost hope of being saved. It was a 36-hour nightmare," he said. He was injured when he slipped and fell as he ran down to the lower decks to help passengers escape from the listing ship, at around midnight on Friday. He broke his leg and was unable to escape.
His mother Giovanna Lazzarini (78) said she had only been able to speak to her son for a few minutes but hearing his voice was "like being born again".
Passengers compared the scenes of chaos and panic, and the inadequate warning they said was given for the ship to be evacuated, with the sinking of Titanic 100 years ago.
Video footage of the disaster showed dozens of plates falling off tables, skittering along the floor of one of the ship's restaurants and smashing against walls. The Concordia was at the start of a week-long tour of Mediterranean ports when it hit a rock off Giglio.
The South Korean couple were found, dazed but unharmed, in their cabin in a dry section of the ship in the early hours of yesterday. Divers found the bodies of two elderly men inside the hull, raising the death toll to five.
Cosimo Nicastro, of the coastguard, said rescuers were "hopeful" that other passengers or crew would be found alive inside air pockets on the ship.
Luca Cari, of the fire service, likened it to "a floating city" and said divers were painstakingly checking the 1,000ft-long vessel, cabin by cabin. Some of the missing are thought to be crew from Asian countries, and may not have understood instructions to abandon the ship.
"The gash in the hull is at the level of the machine room, which means that all the crew's cabins are under water," said Sergio Ortelli, the mayor of Giglio. Ennio Aquilino, a fire service commander from Grosseto, said: "It's like an immense cathedral, a labyrinth." (© Daily Telegraph, London)