Italian Islanders Rise to Challenge of Cruise Disaster

Italian Islanders Rise to Challenge of Cruise Disaster
An idyllic Italian island best known for its rustic charm has become the scene of a disaster and a frantic search for survivors from a luxury cruise liner crashed onto its rocky shores. 

“The whole island has been helping out. We’ve never seen anything on this scale,” said Giorgio Fanciulli, who runs a local news Web site and saw the tragedy unfold after the ship began listing badly and keeled over. 

“It looks like a photo montage. I have trouble believing that it’s a real image,” added Fanciulli, looking out at the half-submerged Costa Concordia just outside Giglio’s picturesque harbor of multi-colored houses and restaurants. 

Fanciulli said the ship was sailing past the island in a sort of show for the locals — a common tradition in Italian ports — but was too close to the shore and hit a group of submerged rocks that were well known to locals. 

“The humanity of this island has really come out. We have a population of 800 people and suddenly there were more than 4,000 from the ship,” he said. 

Other locals said they had rushed to aid survivors in the night between Friday and Saturday, bringing blankets and warm clothing as well as opening their homes for the liner’s multinational crew and passengers. 

“We even used the priest’s robes to clothe people! They were in light clothing because they were just settling down to supper when it happened,” said one woman who declined to be named but added that she was “a proud islander.” 

The woman, speaking at the local tobacconist’s, said: “The children were crying, they were scared. They were so wet! We had to change their clothes.” 

She said she rushed to the scene in the evening when she heard a crash and looked out of her window and stayed all night helping survivors. 

“We were all shocked. We will say a prayer for the victims today,” she said. “Everyone knows where the rocks are! I don’t know what happened. The captain must have made some mistake.” 

Now she said she was afraid of possible fuel leaks from the ship: “It would be a huge disaster. We’ve got golden sandy beaches here!” 

Local officials said there were 2,380 tons of fuel on the ship but no leaks so far. 

Giglio Mayor Sergio Ortelli said he had barely slept in the last 48 hours as he tried to coordinate assistance to the survivors and rescue efforts. 

“I’m very worried. I’m worried about everything,” he said. “With a cataclysm on this scale, I haven’t been able to have an emotion. I’m just satisfied that the population responded 150 percent.” 

He said ships do sometimes file past the island for show and that a small boat with three people on board had previously hit the same rocks.

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