The head of cruise company Costa, Gianni Onorato, explained that the vessel “hit a rock” and pictures demonstrate a huge gash in the ship’s hull more than 150ft (45m) long.
After the collision the captain tried to steer his ship toward shallow waters to make evacuation by lifeboat easier.
However, as the ship started listing badly, lifeboat evacuation was no longer possible. The Italian coast guard reported about three dead.
According to the Huff Post, the bodies were recovered from the sea and at least three additional persons are supposed to be dead, and helicopters were working to pluck to safety some 50 people still trapped aboard the badly listing Costa Concordia, said Coast Guard Cmdr. Francesco Paolillo.
The dead were identified as two French passengers and one Peruvian crewman. One of the suffered was under the age of 70 and supposed to have died of a heart attack caused by the shock of the icy water when he dived in during the chaos.
As officials say, 70 people still missing may be trapped inside “the belly of the ship”. The SkyNews revels that 37 Britons onboard – 25 passengers and 12 crew members, mainly entertainers – were rescued.
An operation aimed to rescue people was launched after the liner began sinking near the island of Giglio, off the Tuscan coast, late on Friday – just two hours after having casted off.
“We have about 40 men at work and we’re expecting specialist diving teams to arrive to check all the interior spaces of the ship,” fire services spokesman Luca Cari told reporters. “We don’t rule out the possibility that more people will be lost.”
Besides, 14 people were injured, mostly suffering bruises, authorities reported. The ship’s captain is being questioned about the details of the catastrophe.
Costa chief executive Mr Onorato said after the liner hit a rock the captain “decided to bring the ship to safety before ordering its evacuation”. He added: “Unfortunately, the fast tilting of the vessel interrupted the evacuation by the use of lifeboats.
“That’s when events started escalating and that required the Italian coast guard to intervene, this and the rescue operations were handed over to the authorities.”
Passenger Luciano Castro described the horror the passengers faced after the collision: ”We were having dinner when all of a sudden the lights went out,” he said. “It seemed as if the ship struck something and then we heard a loud bang and everything fell to the floor.”
”The captain immediately came on the tannoy and said that there had been an electrical fault but it seemed very strange as the ship almost immediately began to list to one side. The glasses just slid off the table.”
”We were then told to put on our life vests and head to the lifeboats just to be safe but there was a real panic onboard you could see it in the faces of the people especially those with young families.”
”Then a few minutes later there were seven whistles which meant everyone had to get in the lifeboats.” Another passenger Mara Parmegiani said ‘it was like a scene from the Titanic.’
General Secretary Mark Dickinson said Nautilus International, the union which represents 23,000 ship masters, officers, ratings and other shipping industry staff, is concerned about the ‘rapid recent increases in the size of passenger ships’ – with the average tonnage doubling over the past decade, reported the Daily Mail.
Mr Dickinson added: “We believe that more attention needs to be given to such issues as the adequacy of life-saving appliances, and the quality and quantity of crews and their training and experience in operating these vessels and dealing with emergency situations, including evacuation.”