French Tourists Missing After Greek Cruise Sinks

A Greek cruise ship carrying almost 1,600 passengers and crew sank on Friday, a day after it struck a reef and took on water off the coast of Santorini, Greece. A three-hour rescue ensued, during which passengers, many of whom were Americans, scurried down rope ladders into awaiting rescue vessels. The 22,400-ton Sea Diamond, operated by Cyprus-based Louis Cruise Lines, was completing a four-day Aegean cruise to the Greek islands of Mykonos, Patmos and Crete and the Turkish coastal town of Kusadasi. The cruise ship began listing after it ran aground while trying to moor in shallow water near the port of Thira. Luckily, calm weather aided the evacuation. At first, Louis Cruise Lines' spokesman, Giorgos Stathopoulos, stated that all the passengers were safely off the ship and accounted for. That changed Friday when authorities said two French passengers--a 45-year-old man and his 16-year-old daughter--were missing. Authorities are rechecking passenger logs and the missing passenger's wife told Greece's tourism minister that she was not sure if her husband and daughter had made it out because everything happened so quickly. Some of the passengers aboard were North Carolina high school students. "A lot of us were taking pictures and all of a sudden there was this big jolt," Catherine Small, a 17-year-old student at Chapel Hill High School told The Associated Press. "The ship was really far tilted. It was actually kind of freaking us out." The ship eased slowly into the water Friday, 15 hours after it began taking on water. The company said it was conducting a full investigation as to what caused the accident. The Sea Diamond was constructed in 1986 and last refurbished in 1999.

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