Death Toll in Italian Cruise Ship Disaster Reaches Five

Posted January 15th, 2012 at 1:05 pm (UTC-5)
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The number of those killed in the Italian cruise ship disaster has risen to five after search crews on Sunday discovered the bodies of two elderly men in the submerged section of the Costa Condordia.

The huge vessel with more than 4,000 people on board ran aground late Friday off the northern Italian coast. On Saturday the bodies of two French passengers and a Peruvian crewmember were found after they apparently jumped into the cold Mediterranean water.

Sunday's discovery lowers the number of those missing to 15.

Earlier on Sunday, a helicopter lifted an injured crewmmeber from the doomed vessel, bringing to three the number of those rescued. A South Korean couple on their honeymoon was found uninjured on Saturday.

At least 30 passengers sustained injuries.

Italian authorities have launched an investigation into how the Costa Condoria managed to hit a reef and capsize just 300 meters off the coast. The ship's Italian captain has been arrested and is facing charges of manslaughter. Italian authorities say he had sailed off course and then abandoned the ship.

Survivors have described a chaotic and terrifying evacuation. One of them was an American tourist who said some people had to swim to the shore.

“We were all standing there, and as the boat started going a little quicker, turning, I saw one of the cranes… It popped the life raft, and it exploded and it went boom! And it just crashed. There were two people on it, they got off I think.. we saw like five people jump in the water and start swimming, and I looked and the other crane next to me, which was three feet above water, one meter above water, was like two meters below water.”

When the ship hit the rocks, officials say, passengers were instructed to put on life jackets and to take to life rafts. However, those on board said the hull tilted so sharply and quickly that many lifeboats could not be lowered into the water.

The Costa Concordia is 290 meters long, with 13 decks. It had 13 bars, five restaurants, four swimming pools and 500 balconied staterooms.