ITALY – Search and rescue operations are still ongoing into the crash of Costa Concordia when it struck a reef off Isola del Giglio in one of Europe’s largest marine park. More than 4200 passengers were on board. Six people are confirmed dead and 15 still missing.
In a scene straight out from Titanic, and in one of the most dramatic disasters ever, the ship tilted to its side, sending people, furniture and cutlery flying. Pandemonium and chaos reigned, with passengers crawling on their knees in the dark, searching for a way out. The delay made lifeboat rescue eventually impossible for the passengers, some of whom jumped into the sea while others waited to be plucked to safety by helicopters.
The vessel had fl ipped on its side with a 160- foot (50-meter) gash in its hull. The ship departed Friday at 7pm local time (GMT+1) from the Italian port of Civitavecchia, near Rome, bound for Savona Less than three hours later, the ship signalled an electrical fault to port authorities Its captain had began to aim for shallow waters, whilst dropping anchors. The vessel moved into the entrance to the port of Giglio and began a 180 degrees turn. At 10.40pm, the ship settled on rocks. Passengers were fi nally told to abandon ship, with the last 300 passengers leaving on Saturday at 3am.
The ship’s captain has been arrested and the Italian authorities have begun investigations. Whether the Italian officers and Indian, South American and Filipino crew were adequately prepared for an emergency will be examined in the following days. Amongst the many unanswered questions was why the evacuation drill was not carried out shortly after the cruise began. Mara Parmegiani Alfonsi, a journalist who was aboard, said the crew did not appear to have been trained for an emergency.
According to Nautilus International, the maritime professionals’ union, safety issues have been worsened, rather than solved, by the size of modern cruise ships. The Concordia was a 114,500-ton ship. “The alarm bells have been ringing with many of us for well over a decade now,” says Andrew Linington, Nautilus’s communications director. “These ships are fl oating hotels – skyscrapers, really. The design has been extrapolated from that of smaller ships. We believe a lot of basic safety principles are being compromised to maximise the revenue.” Marine engineers have long raised questions over the possibility of safe evacuations from bigger ships. The physical difficulties are further compounded by having a multinational crew of 1000 plus and confusion resulting from language barriers and misunderstanding, especially in the event of emergency and panic.
Costa Cruises is owned by American company Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruising operator.