At least three people were killed and about 40 were missing after a Carnival Corp. cruise ship with 4,229 passengers and crew ran aground near the island of Giglio off the west coast of Italy.
The Costa Concordia hit rocks near the island late yesterday a few hours after sailing north from Rome, said Gianni Onorato, the general manager of Carnival’s Costa Crociere line. Captain Francesco Schettino, after assessing the damage, decided to secure the ship and gave the evacuation order, he said. The ship has since sunk.
The ship’s captain, Schettino, was detained and accused of manslaughter, shipwreck and abandoning ship, Italy’s Ansa news service reported, citing Francesco Verusio, the prosecutor in the city of Grosseto. The accident was due to a “reckless maneuver” as the ship was too close to the island, Ansa reported, citing Verusio. Some passengers reported that the ship’s captain was at dinner when the accident occurred, while cruise line officials reported him to be on the ship’s bridge.
While Carnival stated that emergency procedures started immediately, many passengers who were later interviewed reported that the ship’s crew did not order evacuation immediately, and that when they did the instructions were unclear. Many passengers were unable to board the lifeboats and had to be rescued by helicopter, either directly from the ship or from the sea. The first coast guard boats arrived as soon as 10 minutes after the accident.
Update Jan 16: Coast Guard officials reportedly tried to convince the ship’s captain to go back to his sinking ship after he left before all the passengers were off, contrary to Italian maritime law. A captain who abandons a ship in danger can face up to 12 years in prison.
The cause of the shipwreck is now being blamed on the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, who had steered too closely to shore in order to impress tourists. He has been arrested and is facing multiple counts of manslaughter, in addition to charges for causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship.
Rescue crews recovered two more bodies overnight, and rescued three people. Nearly 40 people are still missing.