Irish couple rescued from stricken cruise ship

An Irish couple have been rescued from a cruise ship that ran aground off the Tuscan coast in Italy.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that the couple were not injured and the Irish Embassy in Rome is currently providing consular assistance to them.

Three people died and 14 others are believed to have been injured after the Costa Concordia hit a sandbank last night.

The vessel, which was carrying more than 4,000 passengers, ran aground and keeled over after apparently sailing off course.

Desperate passengers scrambled to evacuate the stricken liner as it began to take on water and list to the right, with some opting to jump into the sea, according to reports.

A massive coastguard rescue operation involving helicopters and rescue boats was immediately launched.

As the sun rose today, the ship could be seen almost completely on its side.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said: “An Irish couple on board are safe and well.

“The Irish embassy in Rome is providing them with consular assistance.”

The liner has a massive gash in the hull more than 150ft long, with a huge rock embedded in the side of the ship towards the stern.

At least three bodies were retrieved from the sea, with at least three more feared dead.

Those evacuated by helicopter were flown to Grosseto, while others, rescued by local ferries drafted in to help, were taken to the port of Porto Santo Stefano on the nearby mainland.

The rescue operation is said to have involved five helicopters, from the coastguard, navy and air force.

Survivors far outnumbered Giglio’s 1,500 residents, and island Mayor Sergio Ortelli asked for “anyone with a roof” to open their homes to shelter the evacuees.

Passengers were also taking refuge in schools, hotels, and a church on the tiny island.

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