Costa concordia, island of giglio, shipwreck giglio, capsize, rescue, tuscan shipwreck, cruise liner capsize, giglio, tuscany

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Italian News Archive - Costa Concordia
Costa Concordia in Palma Mallorca, before the accident - Photo: Jean-Philippe Boulet
The Costa Concordia, launched in 2006, was the jewel in the crown of Costa Cruises, the largest cruise company in Europe. Built in Italy at a cost of €450 million, it is 290 metres long and 36 metres wide. The 3,780 passengers, looked after by 1,100 crew, enjoyed 5 restaurants and 13 bars. They were entertained in a cinema, theatre, casino and nightclub and they relaxed in one of 4 swimming pools and 5 jacuzzis. The largest on-board spa center in the world offered a gym, sauna, turkish baths and a solarium. They even played team games on the full-sized sports pitch. On Friday 13th, the ship left the Italian port of Civitavecchia bound for Savonna. A few hours later, this magnificent cruise ship was a broken wreck, lying capsized in 15 metres of water, 150 metres off the rocky coast of Giglio, a tiny island in the Tuscan Archipelago. A rocky reef known as 'Le Scole' had torn a gaping hole in its hull 50 metres long.

As passengers sat down to an elegant dinner, a tremendous bang signalled the start of a night of terror. Initial announcements of an 'electrical failure' were quickly replaced with orders to abandon ship. Later, the rescued passengers were extremely critical of the safety arrangements onboard the ship, claiming that a scheduled safety drill was not carried out and that the crew, many of whom were unable to speak Italian or English, were unfamiliar with evacuation procedures.

There was chaos as the ship listed heavily, leaving the lifeboats on the higher side unusable. Some of passengers jumped into the sea and swam to the shore, others managed to get off the ship in lifeboats. Later, some were rescued by coastguard helicopters arriving at the scene during the night.

Costa concordia, island of giglio, shipwreck giglio, capsize, rescue, tuscan shipwreck, cruise liner capsize, giglio, tuscany
Lying just off the Island of Giglio - Photo: Rvongher

Giglio is a holiday island, only 22 square kilometres in area. In the winter, there are approximately 700 people living on the island. The arrival of 4,000 unexpected guests in the middle of the night, many suffering from hypothermia, was a significant challenge. The islanders have been praised for the way they responded to the crisis. The survivors were later taken to Porto Santo Stefano on the nearby Argentario Peninsular.

When interviewed on Italian television, the ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, insisted the rocks that the Concordia hit were not marked on his chart. This claim was contradicted by a spokesman for the local coastguard who stated that the area was very well charted and was a favourite destination for scuba divers precisely because of the rocky seabed.

Initial indications suggests that the ship was steered deliberately close to the Island's harbour to create a spectacle for a crew member who came from Giglio as well as a salute to a former colleague of the captain's who was staying on the island. Although sailing close inshore had become something of a tradition, islanders said that the ship had never come quite so close before. If these reports are true, it will have been an extremely costly stunt. Up to thirty two people are dead, the flagship of the fleet is wrecked and the captain faces up to 2,500 years in prison if convicted of all the charges against him.

Perhaps the ship was always doomed... at the launching ceremony, the traditional bottle of champagne failed to break on the ship's hull, drawing gasps from the watching crowd. Two years later, the ship hit the dockside in the port of Palermo during a storm causing extensive damage. But it wasn't until Friday 13th January, 2011 that disaster finally struck.

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Area: 301,225 km²
Population: 60,157,214
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Currency: Euro (€)
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Internet TLD: .it
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