Half past nine, a Friday 13 January: announcements in many languages tell Costa Concordia passengers a generator problem is under control. This ignores the widespread confusion, that the lights are out and the whole ship felt the shudder of a violent impact and is leaning over.
Only the German announcement uses the words, “There is no reason to panic.”
The general alarm was not sounded immediately. Some witnesses said it came an hour after the ship hit rock. Others said longer. It takes time to get 4,229 people off a stricken ship.
Every minute’s delay compounded the urgency. Amateur video recorded screams of fear.
There weren’t enough life vests to go around – or enough boats. Some passengers jumped into the dark sea to swim for shore.
Although the evacuation was nowhere near complete, the captain, Francesco Schettino, had already left the vessel.
A Coast Guard officer recorded ordering him to go back on board to help people. Schettino hung back. He complained, “…but it’s night, we can’t see anything.”
The Coast Guard asked: “What are you doing?!”
Schettino answered: “I’m coordinating rescue operations.”
The Coast Guard said: “You’ve been telling me that for an hour! Are you thinking of going home?!”
Then he spelled out: “Get back on board!”
Schettino never did. He stayed on a rock. Rescuers said they went on until six in the morning.
A trio of English-speaking adults shared stories of their good fortune: “We were pretty adventurous and are very good swimmers, so we were not worried about us four, but there was a family from France right by us with a ten year old and a twelve year old, and they jumped and swam just like us.”
A couple of Korean newly-weds remained trapped in their cabin for 30 hours. They were saved on Sunday.
But just a few dozen metres from dry land on the island of Giglio, western Italy, there were victims of errors in judgement and organisation. Thirty bodies were found. Two remained missing.
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