An out-of-control MSC Cruises ocean ship plowed into a
docked Uniworld river cruise ship in Venice on Sunday morning, injuring at
least five people as passengers fled the much smaller vessel in panic, the
Associated Press reported.
It was the second accident involving a river cruise ship in
Europe in less than a week, and the fourth since October.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection confirmed the
River Countess had been struck, and the company said further information would
be forthcoming as it is available.
The AP, citing Italian media, said the collision happened
Sunday at about 8:30 a.m. on the Giudecca Canal, a major thoroughfare that
leads to Saint Mark's Square in the popular tourism destination.
MSC Cruises said the MSC Opera was about to dock when it had
a mechanical problem and called for help, but two tug boats guiding it in were
unable to stop the collision, the AP reported.
Italian media have posted an audio clip of the MSC Opera's pilot
telling emergency officials that the cruise ship experienced a loss of
controls and "activated all the procedures to avoid" a collision with a
riverboat and dock in Venice, the AP reported. The pilot said anchors were dropped
and that tugboats connected to the ship's bow and stern took maneuvers
to stop the ship. The pilot is heard saying that "here on the bridge,
we don't understand what happened." An investigation has been launched.
Videos of the crash show the ship blaring its horn as it
plowed into the much smaller river boat, which one witness told the AP crumpled
as if it were made of paper.
People were seen rushing to disembark from the moored
riverboat over a short gangplank, and at least two people were left caught on
the walkway as the vessel was dislodged from the pier, the AP reported.
Local officials told the AP five women aboard the riverboat
were injured. They said one was released immediately from a hospital, while
four others were advised to remain under medical care for a few days.
Earlier, medical authorities said four of the women -- an
American, a New Zealander and two Australians between the ages of 67 and 72 --
were injured falling or trying to run away when the cruise ship rammed into the
Elisabetta Pasqualin told the AP she was watering plants on
her terrace when she heard warning sirens.
"There was this huge ship in a diagonal position in the
Giudecca Canal, with a tugboat near which seemed like it couldn't do anything,"
She described the ship "advancing slowly but inevitably
towards the dock." She said "the bow of the ship crashed hard into
the bank with its massive weight crushing a big piece of it. Sirens were
wailing loudly; it was a very dramatic scene."
When the cruise ship rammed the riverboat, she said the
smaller vessel looked like it was "made of plastic or paper" rather
According to the AP, the accident has reignited calls to ban
cruise ships in the Venice, a city that has become a poster child for
Other recent accidents on European waterways have raised
questions and concerns about the number of river cruise ships sharing the
rivers with thousands of barges and other vessels. There currently are more
than 350 passenger ships and more than 13,000 cargo and other vessels plying
On Wednesday, a Viking river ship struck a sightseeing boat
during a night sailing on the Danube in Budapest, killing at least seven
people. Seven were rescued and 21 more were missing in the fast-flowing waters.
That collision is expected to lead to some changes on that
busy stretch of the Danube, where river cruise ships and small tour boats take
to the waters at night to sail past Hungary's famous and brightly lit
Parliament building. Some are calling for banning river cruise ships from
making the so-called illumination sailings.
The Budapest accident was the second collision in two months
involving a Viking ship. In April, the Viking Idun collided with a cargo vessel
while sailing through Belgium. And last October, Crystal River Cruises' Crystal
Bach was hit by a cargo vessel while it sailed overnight on the Rhine, damaging
windows in the Waterside Lounge and in some suites.
No guests were injured in either of the Viking collisions or
the Crystal accident.
This report was updated at 7 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday.