Bridge to Ship Fails; 13 Die

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

A dock gangway crowded with visitors to the Queen Mary 2 collapsed Saturday in the shipyard of St. Nazaire, killing at least 13 people and leaving more than 30 injured, French authorities said.

The victims were mostly relatives of workers who have been completing construction of the ocean liner, due to take to the seas in January as the world's largest passenger ship.

Children were among the victims, who fell about 50 feet. The death toll could increase because 10 of the injured were in serious condition, officials said.

French President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and other leaders expressed shock and sadness and announced plans to visit the scene of the midafternoon accident today.

The 150,000-ton transatlantic liner has had two test runs, the most recent one in September. It is due to make its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in January.

Britain's Cunard Line, which operates the vessel, sent sympathies to the victims' families.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with their friends and relatives at this time of sorrow," President and Chief Operating Officer Pamela Conover said.

Once completed, the $800-million QM2 -- the world's longest, tallest and most expensive passenger ship -- will feature a planetarium, 22 elevators and the world's largest floating library. It will top an illustrious list of massive passenger ships.

The Queen Elizabeth 2 -- whose transatlantic route will be taken over by the new ship in April -- was launched in 1967. The original Queen Mary, now an attraction including a hotel docked in Long Beach, was launched in 1934.

The QM2 is 377 yards long and 79 yards high -- or about the height of a 21-story building.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s Voyager-class ships, about 142,000 tons, are currently the largest cruise ships in service. The QM2 is being built by Alstom Marine's Chantiers de l'Atlantique, and about 800 companies, mostly French, have been involved in the construction.

The QM2 has generated much interest, with Chantiers de l'Atlantique saying it had received at least 150,000 letters from people asking to come aboard for a look.

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