Survivor Found in Italy Ship Crash, Eight Feared Dead

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Eight people were feared dead after a container ship lost control in the night and smashed into a control tower in Italy's busiest port in Genoa where rescue workers plucked a badly injured survivor from the ruins on Wednesday.

The 50-meter (164-foot) high glass-topped tower was destroyed when the ship ploughed into the dock. Some people were thrown into the cold water, while others were trapped in a lift which plunged into the sea, Italy's fire brigade said.

A 50-year-old man was pulled alive from the rubble 12 hours after the accident and rushed to hospital while seven bodies were recovered -- several by rescue divers from the water, the police said.

One person is still believed to be missing.

The 'Jolly Nero' was following protocol by navigating towards the control tower and should have then turned into the open sea to its next port of call, Naples, but it instead hit the shore.

The crash revived painful memories in Italy of the Costa Concordia cruise ship tragedy last year in which 32 people were killed when the luxury liner crashed into an island in Tuscany.

The Costa Concordia had been performing a risky "salute" manoeuvre close to the island of Giglio and six people face charges of manslaughter including the captain, Francesco Schettino.

Initial reports suggested the 'Jolly Nero', built in 1976, had suffered a mechanical failure.

"We do not know much about what caused it. It is so unexpected that it is inexplicable. It was a routine manoeuvre," Daniele Bo, spokesman for the ship's owner Ignazio Messina & Co, told Agence France Presse.

"There were industrial vehicles and a trailer truck on board, as well as several containers. It was a mixed cargo," he said.

Prosecutors opened an investigation into the crash and the ship was sequestered by police, while the captain detained for questioning.

Prosecutor Michele Di Lecce was quoted by Italian media as saying that one possibility investigators were looking into was that engine failure steered the ship off its course although he stressed that the inquiry had only just begun.

The tower crushed two adjacent three-storey office buildings in the port -- which sees 6,600 ships transit through each year, carrying a total of more than 50 million tons of cargo.

Claudio Burlando, governor of the local Liguria region in northwest Italy, told news channel Sky Tg 24: "The ship was being steered by an on-board pilot and two tug boats, one in front and one behind. It was a manoeuvre done hundreds of times."

Luigi Merlo, head of Genoa's port authority, said: "Weather conditions were perfect, there was no wind, there were no other ships on the move."

One of the pilots was quoted by Genoa local daily Il Secolo XIX: "Two engines seem to have failed and we lost control of the ship."

The Italian ship, which was relatively undamaged, is almost 200 meters (655 feet) long, 30 meters wide, and has a gross tonnage of over 40,500.

The ship's owner, Stefano Messina, choked back tears as he told journalists at the scene of the crash: "We are all utterly shocked. Nothing like this has ever happened before, we are desperate."

Rescue divers were still searching the inky waters around the port. Others were using dogs trained to find people in earthquake zones to see if survivors were trapped under the rubble.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano expressed his "solidarity with the families of the victims."

The accident happened during a shift change at the vast tower, which bent over by 45 degrees before collapsing and crushing the neighboring buildings, leaving only an emergency staircase standing.

"I heard a terrible din and rushed out of my cabin," Roberto, the port's night watch, told La Repubblica newspaper. "It was an incredible sight: the control tower was leaning perilously."

Genoa mayor Marco Doria said Italians were in mourning after this "very serious port accident which has struck an entire city".

Italy's transport minister Maurizio Lupi traveled to Genoa on Wednesday and was expected to report back to parliament in Rome on the accident later in the day.

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