At least six people are reported dead after a cruise ship
carrying more than 4,000 people ran aground off Italy.
The Costa Concordia hit a sandbar on Friday evening near the island of Giglio
and listed about 20 degrees, after which people tried to reach land in lifeboats
or by swimming.
The last 50 people on board are being evacuated by helicopter in a
Italians, Germans, French and British were among the 3,200 passengers.
In addition, 1,000 crew were on board the vessel.
One thousand passengers were Italian, with 500 Germans and 160 French.
The Costa Concordia had sailed earlier on Friday from Civitavecchia port near
Rome for a Mediterranean cruise, due to dock in Marseille after calling at ports
in Sicily, Sardinia and Spain.
Passengers were eating dinner on Friday evening, when they heard a loud bang,
and were told that the ship had suffered electrical problems, one passenger told
Italy's Ansa news agency.
"We were having supper when the lights suddenly went out, we heard a boom and
a groaning noise, and all the cutlery fell on the floor," said Luciano
The 290-metre (950 ft) vessel ran aground, starting taking in water and
listing by 20 degrees, the local coast guard said.
Orders were given to abandon ship, Deodato Ordona, a cabin steward on the
Costa Concordia, told the BBC.
"We announced a general emergency and took passengers to muster stations," he
"But it is hard to launch the lifeboats, so they moved to the right side of
the ship, and they could launch."
Elderly passengers were crying, said Mr Ordona, adding that he and some
others jumped into the sea and swam roughly 400 metres to reach land.
Rescued passengers are being accommodated in hotels, schools and a church on
Giglio, a resort island 25km (18 miles) off Italy's western coast.
Costa Crociera, the company which owns the ship, said it could not yet say
what had caused the accident.
"The gradual listing of the ship made the evacuation extremely difficult," a
statement said. "The position of the ship, which is worsening, is making more
difficult the last part of the evacuation.
"We'd like to express our deepest gratitude to the coastguard and other
emergency services, including the authorities and citizens of the island of
Giglio, who did their best in saving and helping the passengers and crew."Source: BBC NEWS
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