The giant cruise ship MSC Opera rammed into a dock and a tourist boat on a busy Venice canal on Sunday morning, reportedly injuring five people.
The collision happened about 8:30 am CET on the Giudecca Canal, a major thoroughfare that leads to Saint Mark's Square in the northeastern Italian city.
Italian media said five women were injured.
According to medical authorities, four of the women — an American, a New Zealander, and two Australians between the ages of 67 and 72 — were injured trying to run away when the vessel rammed into the River Countess.
Video filmed from a balcony nearby showed the cruise ship, apparently unable to halt its momentum, blaring its horn as it ploughed into the much smaller riverboat and the dock.
The cruise ship's owner, MSC Cruises, said the ship, the MSC Opera, was about to dock at a passenger terminal in Venice when it had a mechanical problem.
Two towboats guiding the cruise ship into Venice tried to stop the massive cruise ship, but they were unable to prevent it from ramming into the riverboat.
Elisabetta Pasqualin, a Venice resident who witnessed the crash, said the ship was "advancing slowly but inevitably towards the dock."
“The bow of the ship crashed hard into the bank with its massive weight crushing a big piece of it. Sirens were wailing loudly; it was a very dramatic scene.”
When the cruise ship collided with the riverboat, it seemed like the latter was "made out of plastic or paper" rather than steel, she described.
Venice is a tremendously popular site for both tourists and cruise ships, especially during the summer tourist season.
Following the accident, calls for banning cruise ships from using the busy Giudecca Canal, long a source of contention in the over-extended tourist city, were renewed.
“Today’s accident in the port of Venice proves that cruise ships shouldn’t be allowed to pass down the Giudecca anymore,” said Danilo Toninelli, Italy’s transport minister. “After many years of inertia, we are finally close to a solution to protect both the lagoon and tourism.”