According to CNN News, as of Monday, January 16, officials had temporarily suspended rescue attempts being done by approximately 120 rescue personnel, because the wrecked Costa Concordia, had begun to sway and move, making any rescue attempts too unsafe to continue.  The cruise ship contained over four thousand persons, including a crew of over one thousand.  Today, Tuesday, CBS News reports that five more bodies have been found on the ship, bringing the death total to 11, and there are around sixteen missing.    “These rescue teams are working in extremely bad conditions”, said Luciano Roncalli of Italy’s national fire service.  Two Americans are still among the missing.  Passengers included around 1,000 from Italy, 160 from France, 126 from the United States, and others from many countries. 

Passengers who either jumped from the ship or were able to board lifeboats stated that it was a scene of massive chaos when the accident happened.  At first they were told that there was a problem with a power generator, and soon realized it was much more than that.  One passenger said that there was no help from the crew; passengers were loading lifeboats for themselves.  Only one side of the lifeboats was available because the boat was listing to the other side.   News coverage showed passengers that had formed a human chain, helping each other to be loaded into lifeboats.

Now rescue personnel are working in what resembles a dark, cave.  There are six underwater cave rescue divers working with others from an International Rescue Service.  These cave rescue divers are specially trained to take all precautions to escape entrapment from debris and find a way to safety.  Remember, all the workers are in cold, dark environments, searching a huge ship that would be hard to navigate upright, let alone partially submerged.  Emergency personnel are planning to look into 1,500 cabins, eight bars, five restaurants, four swimming pools, a casino and more.  

Cruises are many times the culmination of dreams of a lifetime, relaxing on the sea while enjoying great food and entertainment.  A recently retired couple from the U.S., who had saved all their work lives to take this trip, are missing, as a result of this recent tragedy.  We were fortunate to take an Alaskan cruise with our best friends a couple of years ago, and it was a great experience.  When we first arrived onboard ship, we found out they had just had a safety drill, but we missed it, and of course, like most people, didn’t give it much thought.  (News statements reported the Italian cruise ship held no safety drill for the passengers once leaving port. I learned from a news source last night that there were plans for a drill the next day; however, cruise lines are required to do them within the first 48 hours.)  It is understandable that most of us who are on vacation never dream that anything like that could happen. 

The lives and safety of passengers are in the hands of the captain and his crew.  It was reported that this captain abandoned his crew and passengers, leaving the ship before them.  He will be punished for the crimes that are involved with this tragedy.  Most cruises end with good memories, but when terrible accidents happen, we are all reminded that we must be aware of taking measures to be safe.  Passengers should check out the safety record of the ship before they take their cruise.  The Centers for Disease Control have information on inspections that are performed on these ships.  Advance research on a particular ship  cannot predict future accidents, but it is a good idea to do some checking ahead of time.

Cruise lines should perform safety drills, and furnish information to passengers on what to do in various emergencies.  Most ships have daily guide sheets on planned activities and excursions, and give the location of emergency facilities onboard.  Members of families traveling together should have a meeting place, in case of emergencies.  The Costa Concordia was the largest European cruise ship when it began, which was 2006.  Realizing that you are on a ship that has more passengers than the populations of many small towns, makes you realize just how many people could become victims of a single accident.   

The safety of rescue personnel is always a concern, especially for those involved.  Wherever there is tragedy, you will find those highly skilled people, who do their best to save lives or recover the unfortunate ones who didn’t make it.  May they continue to serve and be appreciated.