A terrorist attack at the National Bardo Museum in Tunis, the capital city of Tunisia, killed and injured tourists visiting the attraction the morning of Wednesday, March 18. Among those killed were passengers from Costa Fascinosa and MSC Splendida, who were on shore excursions at the time.
Both ships sailed from La Goulette, the port for Tunis, early Thursday morning. Here are the latest updates on the passengers from the two vessels.
MSC Update 11:29 am: MSC reports that the remaining two guests who had been missing were found safe and sound. The two Spanish citizens, a young couple traveling onboard MSC Splendida, had spent the night in hiding at the museum. The woman, who is pregnant, was immediately taken in observation to the hospital. Both her and the child are reported well.
MSC Cruises confirms that, based on the information available as of today, 12 MSC Cruises guests are dead (nationalities: 2 Colombians, 3 French, 3 Japanese, 2 Spanish, 1 British and 1 Belgian) and 13 are injured (nationalities: 1 Belgian, 7 French, 4 Japanese and 1 South African), of which two are in serious condition.
Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises, while in Tunis today to meet the injured and their families to ensure that they are receiving all the necessary assistance, met the Tunisian Minister of Tourism, Ms. Salma Elloumi Rekik. At the meeting, the Minister confirmed that, in conjunction with yesterday’s tragic events, a total of 20 people died, seven of whom have yet to be identified.
Costa Update 1:47 pm: Costa’s official statement of early Thursday said Costa Fascinosa left Tunis port at 1:55 am. Travel Agent subsequently received a statement issued from Neil Palomba, president, Costa Crociere, which said, “With great sadness we regret to report that 5 guests (4 Italians and 1 Russian) of the Costa Fascinosa are amongst the victims of the horrific attack yesterday in Tunis, and 8 guests (7 Italians and 1 Russian) are injured and currently hospitalized. What happened yesterday in Tunis represents an attempt to the values of friendship between cultures in which we have always believed. Our deepest sympathy and our condolences go to the victims and their families. We share their sorrow.”
Michael Thamm, CEO, Costa Group, said, "We strongly condemn the attack on democratic Tunisia." Thamm said Costa's team in Tunis is currently taking care of the companions of the victims and the eight guests being treated in hospitals. A Costa management team is also supporting the ship's crew and guests onboard.
He added that the company is in constant contact with the Italian Government and the security authorities of Tunisia as well as of other countries. "We would like to thank the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and his structure for their co-operation," Thamm said.
Costa also has said that it "the safety of guests and crew members is Costa’s top priority and represents a necessary condition for an enjoyable, serene holiday." With that in mind, the line cancelled all its upcoming Tunis calls for Costa Fortuna, Costa Favolosa and Costa neoRiviera and plans to substitute other ports; that process is underway.
Costa and MSC both serve a diverse international audience with a high number of European travelers, particularly when sailing the Mediterranean. Tunis has long been a popular port on many Mediterranean cruise itineraries.
At the time of the terrorist attack, passengers were departing cruise ship shore excursion vehicles at the museum when they were confronted by terrorists in military attire with assault weapons. After gunning down many passengers and spraying the motorcoaches with bullets, the gunmen then headed inside and took hostages. Two gunmen were killed in a firefight with security forces.
Some passengers fled into the Tunisia Parliament building. Two or three additional accomplices are thought to have escaped. At this time, the fate of the unaccounted for passengers is unknown.
On Thursday while doing and interview with French radio station RTL, Tunisia’s Prime Minister Habib Essid named two of the suspects -- Yassine Labidi and Saber Khachnaoui -- one of whom was known to security services, although it’s not clear which. Essid also said it's not clear to which organization the men belonged.
Stay tuned to www.travelagentcentral.com for further updates.