Monday, January 16, 2012

Shipwreck off the coast of Tuscany (with updates)

By now most of you have heard of the cruise ship that sunk near the island of Giglio (means "lily") off the coast of southern Tuscany. Three are reported dead with at least fifteen still missing. The wreck was caused by foundering on rocks which created a large gash in the hull.

The latest from Italian reports is that the Captain, one Schettino, jumped ship before all passengers were accounted for. He is now in custody. The company maintains that the route of the cruise ship was already electronically set, but that Schettino decided to deviate from it, getting as near as 150 meters to the shore. The reason for this is apparently that he wished to render a "salute" (inchino, or bow) to the island in honor of people associated with the ship who are from the island. This occurs when a ship approaches very near to a locale as an acknowledgement or sign of respect to a native. Named were a former captain, who maintains that he was on the mainland at the time and knew nothing about it, and (more likely) the maitre d' of the ship, Antonello Tievoli, who was in fact on board. His sister on the island, Patrizia, notified people via Facebook that soon the Concordia (ship's name) would be coming "very close" (vicina vicina) to Giglio and sent a "big hi" to her brother. This would seem to imply that the deviation was premeditated and that Antonello Tievoli or others in the crew knew about it and informed the sister beforehand.

It is often said that the sea is dangerous and unfathomable. But it's nothing compared to human nature.

Update, January 17th- here is a reconstruction of what happened the night of the shipwreck, according to Italian sources. The mayday message was not given even after the ship hit the rock, the passengers were told that it was a technical problem and not an emergency. The situation was revealed when a woman on board from Prato, near Florence, called her mother in a panic. The mother called the Carabinieri, who contacted the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard ascertained the position of the ship by satellite and got in touch with the captain, Schettino, who admitted that he had abandoned the ship. The coast guard officer assumes command and orders Schettino back to the ship, telling him that there are already cadaveri. Schettino hesitates and the officer in Livorno yells at him to go back immediately.

Update, January 18- As of yesterday, Captain Schettino is no longer in jail but under house arrest at his home near Sorrento. The prosecutor, who has called Schettino a scellerato (basically, a son of a bitch or bastard, to speak colloquially), is now feuding with the judge who allowed the house arrest. Ah, Italy. How I don't miss you in moments like this.