At least three people have been killed in a container ship accident in the northern Italian port city of Genoa. Rescuers searched debris on land and underwater for survivors after the vessel hit a control tower.
Along with the three fatalities, several people remained unaccounted for after the ship smashed into the tower at about 11 p.m. local time on Tuesday.
Conditions were reported to have been calm when the ship, the Jolly Nero, was maneuvering out of port with the help of two tugboats.
The Genoese newspaper Il Secolo XIX said the ship had been leaving port when its motors apparently became jammed, making the boat impossible to control. "Based on the few details which have emerged so far, it was an incomprehensible maneuver which could only be explained by a mechanical failure," the newspaper said.
Il Secolo XIX quoted the captain as saying that two engines appeared to have failed.
Prosecutors opened an investigation, while the ship was sequestered by police and the captain detained for questioning, reports said.
'No immediate explanation'
However, official sources were not immediately certain of the reasons for the disaster.
“It is a terrible tragedy," the head of the Genoa Port Authority Luigi Merlo told local television station Primocanale. "At the moment there is no explanation for the accident."
The control tower, more than 50 meters (160 feet) high, was destroyed by the impact.
Television footage showed the crash area illuminated by floodlights as emergency services searched the water around the tower for survivors or bodies. Rescuers used dogs trained for earthquake zones to search for survivors trapped under the rubble around the tower.
Because the accident happened during a change of staff shifts, more people than normal were in the tower. Three people may have been in a lift, which rescuers fear may have fallen into the sea.
At almost 200 meters (655 feet) the Jolly Nero has a gross tonnage of more than 40,500. The vessel was bound for Messina in Sicily.
rc/jr (dpa, Reuters, AFP)