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At least three dead after giant cruise ship sinks off Italy

Reuters/Remo Casilli

Three people were reported dead and several were missing Saturday after the Costa Concordia cruise ship with more than 4,000 people on board ran aground and keeled over off an Italian island.

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There was chaos as people scrambled to get off the boat, some jumping into icy water, after it apparently hit a reef near the Isola del Giglio on Friday.

The Costa Concordia was on a trip around the Mediterranean when the accident took place and passengers were sitting down to dinner.

"There were scenes of panic like on the Titanic. We ran aground on rocks near the Isola del Giglio. I don't know how this could happen. The captain is crazy," Mara Parmegiani, a passenger, was quoted by Italian media as saying.

Reuters/Giglionews.it

There was confusion as to the death toll on Saturday morning and rescuers still did not know if there were people in the submerged part of the boat.

Local officials also said at least 14 people were injured.

Around 20 people were rescued by helicopters, which scoured the sea with searchlights during the night-time rescue operation.

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 sea, reports said.

The Costa Crociera company, which owns the vessel, declared itself "shocked" by the news but said it was not yet possible to establish the cause of the accident.

"The ship was on a cruise in the Mediterranean, leaving from Savona with planned stops in Civitavecchia, Palermo, Cagliari, Palma, Barcelona and Marseille," the company said. "There were around 1,000 Italian passengers on board, as well as 500 Germans and around 160 French people."

The Costa Concordia boasts 58 suites with balconies, five restaurants, 13 bars, five Jacuzzis and four swimming pools.

It had set off from the Civitavecchia port near Rome earlier Friday when it ran into difficulties.

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