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Mediterranean cruise ship runs aground, kills 6

At least six people were killed when a luxury cruise ship with 4,200 passengers and crew aboard ran aground off the Italian coast and began taking on water Saturday, according to numerous news agencies.

The Costa Concordia was on a Mediterranean voyage when it hit a reef about dinnertime near Isola del Giglio, a tiny Tuscan island.

European news agencies quoted Costa Cruises, the company that runs the ship, as saying the 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members were being evacuated, “but the position of the ship, which is worsening, is making more difficult the last part of the evacuation.”

Boats from a nearby harbor and helicopters with spotlights were being used to aid in the rescue, as passengers crammed into cruise ship tenders to be ferried ashore.

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The ship was reportedly listing at 20 degrees, but officials said it was in no danger of sinking.

Panic had swept across the ship as it began to list, and several people are still missing after jumping overboard when the craft began to tilt, the Messaggero newspaper said.

One of the victims was a man in his 70s who died of a heart attack caused by the shock to his system when he jumped into the water, Italian officials said. Rescuers said three bodies were recovered from the sea.

At least six people reportedly died in the accident and more than 30 were injured, some seriously, wire services said.

Passengers said they heard a loud boom and were initially told that an electrical problem had caused the ship to suddenly stop.

“We were having supper when the lights suddenly went out,” one passenger told the Italian news agency ANSA. “We heard a boom and a groaning noise, and all the cutlery fell on the floor.”

Several passengers compared the grounding to a scene from “Titanic.”

On the island, local officials were scrambling to find places for the rescued passengers to stay.

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“We are trying to accommodate them anywhere we can — in schools, nurseries, hotels — anywhere that has a roof,” Mayor Sergio Ortelli was quoted as saying. He added that some people were sleeping in a church.

The 951-foot Costa Concordia — described in promotional material as “a real floating temple of fun that will amaze you” — was on a Mediterranean tour with calls to Civitavecchia, Savona, Marseille, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Cagliari and Palermo.

The company said it had not yet determined what caused the accident.


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