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Two rescued alive aboard cruise ship off coast of Italy

A couple was found alive Saturday aboard the cruise ship Costa Concordia that ran aground off the coast of Italy. The captain of the cruise ship was arrested Saturday in Italy.

By Philip PullellaReuters / January 14, 2012

The Costa Concordia cruise ship ran aground off the west coast of Italy at Giglio island January 14, 2012.

REUTERS/ Remo Casilli

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Rome and Porto Santo Stephano, Italy

Firefighters have reached two people alive on the stricken Italian cruise  ship Costa Concordia, the Italian news agency Ansa reported on Sunday.

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The firefighters had made voice contact with the couple earlier and found the taking refuge in a cabin aboard the ship.

Meanwhile, the captain of the Costa Concordia, the ship that ran aground off Italy, was arrested on suspicion of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship, police said on Saturday.

IN PICTURES: Costa Concordia runs aground

Police said the captain, Francesco Schettino, was taken to a jail in the provincial capital Grosseto to await questioning by a magistrate.

The captain appears to have taken the vessel very close to the shore in a dangerous manner, officials said on Saturday.

At least three people died in the disaster. The huge, 290 metre long vessel, carrying more than 4,200 passengers and crew, ran aground in shallow waters off the Tuscan island of Giglio but the exact circumstances of the incident remain unclear.

"There was a dangerous close approach which very probably caused the accident, although it will be for the investigation to establish that fully," coast guard spokesman Luciano Nicastro told SkyTG24.

He said the captain then attempted a safety manoeuvre, setting anchor and bringing the ship closer to the shore to facilitate a rescue.

"This was an operation which allowed thousands of people to be taken ashore quickly and in a reasonably safe manner," he said.

The ANSA news agency quoted the state prosecutor of the town of Grosetto as saying that the captain brought the ship close to shore "very clumsily".

Passengers leapt into the sea and fought over lifejackets in panic when an Italian cruise ship ran aground and keeled over, killing at least three and leaving dozens missing.

In the chaotic aftermath of the Friday evening accident, Italian officials could still not say how many of the 4,229 passengers and crew on board the 114,500-tonne Costa Concordia were missing.

"I was sure I was going to die. We were in the lifeboats for two hours, crying and holding on to each other," said Antonietta Sintolli, 65, breaking down in tears as she recounted the event.

"People were trying to steal lifejackets from each other. We could only gets ones for children."

An official involved in the rescue operation said two French tourists and a Peruvian crew member were dead. Around 70 people were injured, at least two seriously.

The vessel's operator, Costa Crociere, a unit of Carnival Corp & Plc, the world's largest cruise operator, said it had been sailing on its regular course when it struck a submerged rock. In a television interview, the ship's commander said the rock was not marked on any maritime charts of the area.

(Reporting By Gavin Jones and Philip Pullella,; Editing by Ralph Gowling and Myra MacDonald)

IN PICTURES: Costa Concordia runs aground

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