Chinese tourists on capsized Italian ship safe

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The Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong confirmed on Sunday that all Chinese tourists on board the stricken cruise liner Costa Concordia were safe.

Rescuers search for survivors on Sunday of the crippled Costa Concordia cruise ship that ran aground off the west coast of Italy. At least three people were killed after the Italian ship, with more than 4,000 people on board, struck a reef on Friday. [Reuters]

Rescuers search for survivors on Sunday of the crippled Costa Concordia cruise ship that ran aground off the west coast of Italy. At least three people were killed after the Italian ship, with more than 4,000 people on board, struck a reef on Friday. [Reuters] 

Chinese Embassy in Rome Sunday said that all Chinese tourists have been accounted for and are receiving help.

The 22 Chinese tourists were from Hong Kong and their trip had been arranged through Wing on Travel and two other travel agencies, China Daily reported.

According to embassy officials, all Chinese tourists were accounted for and none had suffered serious injuries.

"All 22 passengers are now in Rome and some were even considering going on with their holiday. We are helping them with various paperwork," an embassy spokesperson said.

The luxury cruise liner, carrying 4,229 passengers and crew, ran aground on Friday night just off the Italian coast. It was so close to the coast that many passengers were able to swim to safety.

Five passengers were confirmed dead but about 40 remain unaccounted for.

On Sunday afternoon, coast guard divers searching the submerged part of the vessel found the bodies of two elderly men, an Italian and a Spanish, still in their life jackets.

Two French tourists and a Peruvian crew member had been found dead on Saturday.

An investigation was launched on Saturday and the captain of the ship has been detained by the authorities for alleged manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship while passengers were still on board, chief prosecutor Francesco Verusio told Italy's ANSA state news agency.

"Preliminary indications are that there may have been significant human error on the part of the ship's Master, Captain Francesco Schettino, which resulted in these grave consequences," Costa Cruises said in a statement.

"The route of the vessel appears to have been too close to the shore, and the Captain's judgment in handling the emergency appears to have not followed standard Costa procedures," the statement said.  

The Costa Cruises also said that "it is becoming clear that the crew of the Costa Concordia acted bravely and swiftly to help evacuate more than 4,000 individuals during a very challenging situation. We are very grateful for all they have done."

A South Korean couple on honeymoon were rescued early on Sunday morning, nearly 24 hours after the ship went aground. They were brought ashore looking dazed but were unharmed.

At about 1 pm, rescue workers airlifted Manrico Gianpetroni, chief purser, hours after making voice contact with him several decks below.

As the search continued, there were demands for explanations of why the vessel had come so close to the shore and bitter complaints about how long it took to evacuate the terrified passengers.

State prosecutor Francesco Verusio said investigations might go beyond the captain.

"We are investigating the possible responsibility of other people who could be responsible for such a dangerous maneuver," he told SkyTG24 television. There were fears the death toll could rise. 

The vessel's operator, Costa Crociere, a unit of Carnival Corp & Plc, the world's largest cruise company, said the Costa Concordia had been sailing on its regular course when it struck a submerged rock.

In a television interview, Schettino said the rock was not marked on any maritime charts of the area.

Costa Crociere president Gianni Ororato said the captain "performed a maneuver intended to protect both guests and crew" but it was "complicated by a sudden tilting of the ship".

"We'll be able to say at the end of the investigation. It would be premature to speculate on this," said coast guard spokesman Filippo Marini.

After a nighttime operation on Friday and Saturday involving helicopters, ships and lifeboats, many passengers had left the area with many taken to Rome airport for flights home.

The ship was involved in an accident on Nov 22, 2008 when it hit a port wall and was damaged while docking.

Local officials expressed concern that the fuel on the ship, at full load as it had just begun the cruise, could spill into the pristine waters. However, there was no sign of any pollution damage on Sunday.

Passengers had just sat down to dinner, a few hours after leaving the port of Civitavecchia near Rome on a week-long cruise to Barcelona and Majorca, when a loud bang interrupted the piano player and the ship began to list.

The ship was carrying mainly Italian passengers, but also many foreigners including British, Germans, French, Spanish and Americans. 

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