Wednesday 21 March 2018

Costa Concordia: Photographs of stricken liner show passengers fleeing

Lifeboats flee the stricken Costa Concordia as it lists heavily off the Italian coast
Lifeboats flee the stricken Costa Concordia as it lists heavily off the Italian coast
Passengers can be seen queueing to flee the sinking vessel

Nick Squires

They look like stills from the disaster film 'Titanic', but these are the latest extraordinary photographs from the sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the coast of Italy.

The pictures show passengers in life jackets fleeing the giant, 1000ft long liner in lifeboats, after it was grounded on rocks just yards from the shore of the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio.

Other passengers can be seen lining up on the luxury liner's decks to climb into lifeboats which have yet to be deployed.

Moments before, they had been enjoying dinner and drinks in the ship's bars and restaurants.

The whole scene is illuminated by the ship's bright lights, giving it a surreal, Hollywood touch, as if it was part of a movie set.

The 17-deck Costa Concordia was run aground in the rocky bay about an hour after its captain, Francesco Schettino, misjudged a 'sail-past' of Giglio and rammed it into rocks, ripping a massive tear in its hull.

As the ship began taking on water and listing, Capt Schettino steered it along Giglio's coast, then turned it around in a 180 degree arc before grounding it on a rocky ledge.

Panic-stricken passengers piled into lifeboats, while others jumped into the water.

Most of the 4,200 people on board made it to shore and were given dry clothes, hot drinks and shelter by islanders.

But others were not so lucky – the death toll stands at 16, with more than a dozen, including a five-year-old Italian girl, still missing.

Capt Schettino's superiors have claimed he failed to keep them informed of the severity of the damage done to the ship.

Costa Cruises, which owns and runs the vessel, has said that the first it knew of the disaster was at 10.05pm – 23 minutes after the collision.

But the president of the company appeared to back track on that on Wednesday when he appeared in front of an Italian Senate committee.

Pier Luigi Foschi said Capt Schettino called the company's crisis unit officer, Roberto Ferrarini, at 9.57pm – eight minutes earlier than the firm had previously stated.

"Schettino said that he had a big problem on board. He told Ferrarini that he had hit a rock and there had been a blackout. The captain said that only one of the sealed chambers was flooded," Mr Foschi told senators.

In another call at 10:06pm, Capt Schettino told Mr Ferrarini that a second sealed chamber was flooded "but said the stability of the ship was not in danger".

Capt Schettino "was very calm and said the situation was under control", Mr Foschi said.

He repeated the company's line that it was misled by the captain and that the sail-past of Giglio that night was unauthorised.

He did admit, however, that the company – which is part of US cruising giant Carnival Corp – did sometimes encourage its captains to sail close to the coast, saying the practice was "in demand" and "helps enrich the product".

Capt Schettino is under house arrest at his home near Sorrento, accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship along with first officer Ciro Ambrosio.

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