Dozens of people remain in hospital following last night’s collision in the straits of Messina between a hydrofoil ferry and a container ship, which killed four people. Three of the injured are still on the critical list. The straits, between Sicily and the Italian mainland, are one of Europe’s busiest waterways, and as yet no explanation as to the cause of the accident is being advanced. Three inquiries have been opened into the accident, in which the hydrofoil was nearly cut in two by the much bigger cargo vessel.
Italian coastguards were helped by the fact the accident took place at the entrance to Messina harbour. The hydrofoil was so badly damaged it might have sunk on the high seas. “The lights went out”, said one passenger, “and the ship’s hull tilted to the left. People were screaming with fear”.
Only two of the hydrofoil’s crew survived, but it all could have been much worse: “Luckily we had an immigration patrol in the area, a coastguard who intervened promptly, which happened to be the first ship to take on passengers, around 80 to 85 people”, said one rescuer. Some of the victims had to be cut from the wreckage as the two ships were jammed together. The inquiry is likely to hinge on which ship had the right of way in the narrow waterway.