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Officials: 3 Killed in Cruise Ship Crash

6:34 AM, Jan 14, 2012   |    comments
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At least three people were killed when a cruise ship ran aground near the Italian island of Giglio on Friday night, the local civil protection agency said Saturday.

The Costa Concordia, owned by Genoa-based Costa Cruises, ran aground on a sand bank off the island, located off of Italy's western coast, ANSA reported. The incident occurred during dinnertime, witness Luciano Castro told ANSA.

The ship was carrying about 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members at the time, according to the cruise line's blog.

Initial reports suggested as many as six people had been killed, but it was unclear why the number dropped. An additional 14 people were injured, Adm. Ilarione Dell'Anna, head of coastal authorities for the port city of Livorno, told CNN.

The civil protection agency in the town of Grosseto, the provincial capital, said the emergency operation was still ongoing and parts of the ship remained underwater, so the toll could rise.

The coast guard said three helicopters were being used to rescue remaining passengers from the ship, which pictures show leaning heavily to one side.

Evacuation efforts started promptly but were made "extremely difficult" by the position of the ship, according to a statement on Costa's website. Some passengers fell into the chilly waters during the rescue, Italy's ANSA news agency reported.

Dell'Anna said an investigation is under way.

"There has probably been a technical black-out," he said. "The ship was dangerously near the coast. We worked all night in a state of maximum emergency.

"Fortunately the sea conditions have helped us, otherwise -- given the high number of people to rescue, 4,231 -- we could have had a completely different scenario: a real tragedy."

Passengers said the lights went out and then it became clear the ship had hit something.

People rushed to find lifeboats as the ship quickly leaned to one side. Access to some lifeboats was hampered by the ship's tilt into the water, adding to the confusion.

Many of those rescued in the early hours were taken to small churches and other buildings around the island for shelter.

Costa said it was focusing on the final stages of the emergency operation and helping passengers and crew return home.

"It is a tragedy that deeply affects our company. Our first thoughts go to the victims and we would like to express our condolences and our closeness to their families and friends," Costa said on its website.

The Concordia, built in 2006, was on a Mediterranean cruise from Rome with stops in Savona, Marseille, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Cagliari and Palermo, according to the cruise line. It was unclear how far into the cruise the grounding occurred.

Most of the passengers on board were Italian, as well as some French and German citizens. CNN affiliate America Noticias, in Peru, said a group of 32 Peruvians were also onboard.

Another Costa ship was involved in a deadly 2010 accident when the Costa Europa crashed into a pier in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh during stormy weather, killing three crew members.

CNN

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