Six Aberdeen holidaymakers saw their dream trip turn into a nightmare after the cruise ship taking them around the world crashed into a harbour pier in Egypt, killing three crew.
About 1,500 holidaymakers were forced to abandon the Costa Europa at 5.30am yesterday after she hit the pier at Sharm el-Sheikh in fierce winds, leaving a 7ft hole in the hull.
Three British tourists were injured in the panic as passengers fled the ship fearing for their lives.
The Foreign Office said last night that 27 other Britons were also on board, including Aberdeen friends Arlene Grant and Lorna Mackay.
Speaking to the Press and Journal from Egypt last night, 61-year-old Ms Grant, who lives in the city centre, said the accident had been terrifying.
“We were coming into port and, as we came around a point of land, the boat hit the jetty, leaving a hole in deck one,” she said.
“The captain made an announcement saying there had been an accident but to continue as normal.
“But at 5.30am another announcement was made and we were told to pack our luggage and abandon ship.
“By that time, the boat had listed to one side and things were flying all over the place. It was pretty terrifying as it was dark and the ship had been listing. I think this was to keep the hole out of the water.
“Thankfully, we got off safely and we got taken to a hotel by 11am. We were supposed to have eight days of our cruise left, but now we are waiting for a flight home.”
Ms Mackay’s 21-year-old son, Michael, has been waiting anxiously for news at their Kingswells home.
He said: “I have been trying to get in contact with her without success. I spoke to my sister, who said she had spoken to her in the past hour.
“She said she is in shock and very shaken up. I haven’t got much details but, from what my sister said, it was a very traumatic experience and that they were asleep in bed when the crash happened.”
Mr Mackay added: “I have been contacted by the UK cruise company for this ship and they told me that it was being arranged to fly the passengers home.”
Two couples from Cults – Peter and Joan Coutts, and Fraser and Cindy Richardson – were also on board and the six Aberdonians, who are all in their 60s, have become friends amid the drama.
They are all now staying at the Grand Rotana Resort at Sharm el-Sheikh waiting for the flight home.
Most of the British people on board had booked their trip with Virgin Holidays, the Foreign Office said.
A spokesman said: “We can confirm that three British nationals were hospitalised whilst evacuating a cruise ship in the port of Sharm el-Sheikh. All British nationals have now been discharged.”
It is understood the three women received only minor injuries.
The ship’s owner, Costa Crociera, said the vessel had sprung a leak on her right side after crashing into the dock about 4.45am.
An Egyptian security official said the incident had left a 7ft hole in the hull of the ship, which had been in Port Safaga the night before.
Witnesses said fierce winds had battered the area overnight and the bad weather was being blamed for the incident.
The ship had been on an 18-day cruise from Dubai to Savona, Italy, with 1,437 guests on board.
The three dead crew were from India, Brazil and Honduras. It is understood they had been sleeping in the area of the ship that hit the pier.
In a statement, Costa Crociera said: “We sadly have to confirm the deaths of three crew members.”
The company said passengers were being put up in local hotels and arrangements were being made to return them to their home countries.
The 55,000-tonne vessel is one of 16 cruise ships belonging to the Genoa-based company, the Italian subsidiary of Carnival.