| 5.7°C Dublin

It's just a power failure, officer told coast guard after collision

An officer on the Costa Concordia assured a coast guard official that the cruise ship was simply dealing with a power failure, 30 minutes after it collided with a rocky shoal and ripped open its hull, forcing the evacuation of its 4,200 passengers and crew.

In an audio recording, the unidentified officer insists that the luxury liner was suffering only from an electricity "blackout" -- despite the fact that a passenger had reported at dinner that "everything fell on his head".

The recording, the first contact between the ship and port officials on the night of the disaster, was made at 10.12pm on Friday -- 30 minutes after the collision with rocks off the island of Giglio at 9.42pm.

Coast guard officials in Livorno had been alerted to the fact that the ship could be in difficulty after panicked Italian passengers called relatives by mobile phone, who in turn contacted police.

The officer was asked whether the ship was in difficulty and replied: "We have a blackout on board."

The coast guard official asked: "What type of problem, only generators? Because the Carabinieri of Prato (in Tuscany) got a call from a relative of a crew member who said that during dinner everything fell on his head."

The officer replied: "No, negative, we have a blackout and we are verifying the conditions on board."

The audio tapes will reinforce prosecutors' accusations that the captain, Francesco Schettino, and his officers failed to alert authorities and delayed giving the order to abandon ship.

Mr Schettino was suspended as an employee of Costa Cruises, with the company disassociating itself from his conduct and saying it would register as an injured party in a trial of the skipper. Eleven people are confirmed dead, while more than 20 people, including a five-year-old Italian girl, are missing.

Susy Albertini has begged rescuers to keep up the search for her daughter Dayana, the youngest person missing from the disaster. Dayana was with her father, William Arlotti, (36), who is also missing. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent