Out of control cruise ship crashes in Venice

Tourists have been filmed running along a wharf seconds before an out-of-control cruise ship crashed into it.

Four female tourists - an American, a New Zealander and two Australians between the ages of 67 and 72 - were injured falling or trying to run away when the cruise ship rammed into tourist boat the River Countess in Venice's Giudecca Canal, medical authorities told the Associated Press.

One of the Australians on board the out-of-control ship described the surreal moment he realised the massive vessel wasn't turning.

He told the Today show this morning he was sat on his balcony eating breakfast when he saw "people running everywhere" as the ship careered into the wharf.

"We noticed it was heading straight for that pier," he said. "The closer it got, the more we started to freak out.

"Not much we could do. We had the best seat in the house for it."

The footage, from the San Basilio cruise terminal in Venice, was captured about 8.30am Sunday local time, Italian media reported.

It showed the MSC Opera's air horn sounding as it careened into the wharf, collecting a local tourist boat in the process.

The MSC Opera scraped along the dockside, its engine blaring, before knocking into the Michelangelo tourist boat.

The moment of impact.
The moment of impact.

MSC Cruises, an international cruise ship line with its headquarters in Geneva, says its ship, the MSC Opera, experienced a mechanical problem Sunday as it was docking at a passenger terminal in Venice.

The company says it is co-operating with authorities to figure out what happened.

The MSC Opera is a 66,000 tonne ship with a capacity of 2700 passengers.

English tourist Duncan Ogle-Skan was filming from his accommodation as the ship crashed into the dock. His footage shows hundreds of passengers watching the ship crash from several decks.

'HOW THE HELL DOES THAT HAPPEN?'

Mr Ogle-Skan told news.com.au he was packing to leave after a visit to the popular Italian city when the chaos began.

"The ship caught the eye of my friend Hannah as it was much closer to the apartment than the other cruise ships," he said.

 

 

 

"I grabbed my phone because it was obviously going to hit the quay. I couldn't believe people weren't running sooner."

He told news.com.au the air horn was sounding for "about a minute we think" and "it looked like it was going to hit before it did, but seemed to straighten a little and caught the dock and boat a bit further down."

He said he could see people running from the ship's path gathering outside his apartment.

Loud scraping noises can be heard in Mr Ogle-Skan's video as the ship comes into contact with the dock. At the end of one video, his friend can be heard asking: "How the hell does that happen?!"

Speculation about the cause of the crash suggests it may have happened after a cable used to link cruise ships to the tug boats that pull them into the city's canals broke, the Corriere della Sera daily said.

"The two tugboats tried to stop the giant and then a tow cable broke, cut by the collision with the river boat," Davide Calderan, president of a tugboat association in Venice, told the Italian news agency ANSA.

Calderan said the cruise ship's engine was locked when the captain called for help.

Elisabetta Pasqualin was watering plants on her terrace when she heard warning sirens and stepped out to see the crash.

"There was this huge ship in a diagonal position in the Giudecca Canal, with a tugboat near which seemed like it couldn't do anything," she said.

She described the ship "advancing slowly but inevitably towards the dock." She said "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 rammed the river boat, she said the smaller vessel looked like it was "made of plastic or paper" rather than steel.

 

 

Footage posted on social media showed the moment immediately before — and after — the ship hit.
Footage posted on social media showed the moment immediately before — and after — the ship hit.


The Opera was then unable to stop because of the strong currents pulling it towards the dock, it said.

The MSC Opera was built in 2004. It can carry over 2,675 passengers in 1,071 cabins. According to its sailing schedule, it left Venice on May 26 and travelled to Kotor, Montenegro, and Mykonos, Santorini and Corfu in Greece before returning Sunday to Venice.

MSC Cruises, founded in Italy in 1960, is a global line registered in Switzerland and based in Geneva.

The crash comes seven years after the Costa Concordia cruise liner hit a reef and sank off the Italian island Giglio, killing 32 people.

An investigation found the ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, left the ship prematurely. He was found guilty of manslaughter and jailed for 16 years.

 

A tourist river boat is moored after being struck by the MSC Opera cruise ship, in Venice, Italy, Sunday, June 2, 2019. Picture: AP/Luca Bruno
A tourist river boat is moored after being struck by the MSC Opera cruise ship, in Venice, Italy, Sunday, June 2, 2019. Picture: AP/Luca Bruno

 

Following the collision, calls for banning cruise ships in Venice, long a source of contention in the over-extended tourist city, were renewed.

For many, the crash served as a wake-up call. Opponents say cruise ships are out-of-scale for Venice, cause pollution, endanger the lagoon's ecosystem and a danger.

"Obviously, we've seen today that our worst fears have come true," said Jane Da Mosto, an environmental scientist and executive director of We Are Here Venice. Her group backs efforts to ban cruise ships from Venice.

"There were 111 people on the river cruise boat that the big ship crashed into. They could have all died," she said. She said the cruise ship could have plowed through the concrete embankment and "hit houses, monuments and crowds of people."

"The port authority, the government ministers, the other institutions have often tried to ridicule the resistance movement against the cruise ships, saying that an accident like this could never occur," she added. "The government shouldn't be so weak in giving in to the pressure of the lobby groups, like the cruise ship companies."

The collision came four days after a river cruise ship collided with a sightseeing boat carrying South Korean tourists in Hungary's capital, killing seven and leaving 21 others missing.

Not everyone in Venice is opposed to the cruise ships. Pasqualin, the woman who witnessed the collision, counted herself among those prior to Sunday's crash.

"I've always been positive about the ships, but I have to admit I've started to change my mind now, because this was a tragic, terrible and dramatic scene," she said.

Italian officials said the collision underscored the need to ban cruise ships from using the busy Giudecca Canal, but they stopped short of calling for a ban on cruise ships.

"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."

The MSC Opera was built in 2004. It can carry over 2,675 passengers in 1,071 cabins. According to its sailing schedule, it left Venice on May 26 and traveled to Kotor, Montenegro, and Mykonos, Santorini and Corfu in Greece before returning Sunday to Venice.

 

 

Tourists fleeing as the ship collides.
Tourists fleeing as the ship collides.


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