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ACCIDENT

Search continues after Genoa shipping accident

Rescue workers were searching for survivors at the port of Genoa on Wednesday, after a container ship smashed into a control tower in a night-time accident that left three dead and revived painful memories in Italy of the Costa Concordia disaster last year.

Search continues after Genoa shipping accident
Rescue workers inspect the scene of a damaged control tower in the port of Genoa on Tuesday. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

Around 14 people were in the tower when it was knocked over, plunging some into the cold water and trapping others in a lift which toppled into the sea, media reports said.

One of the victims was reported to be Daniele Fratantonio, 30, who worked for the coast guard operations centre. The other two have yet to be identified.

Rescue workers dived into the inky waters around the port – the busiest in Italy – in a frantic search to find around six or seven people believed to be missing after the accident, which left four seriously wounded.

Others used dogs trained to find people in earthquake zones to see if survivors were trapped under the rubble around the tower.

The number of missing was not clear because the accident happened during a shift change at the vast metal tower, which bent over by 45 degrees before partially collapsing.

Three people were believed to have been trapped inside the lift, which divers were attempting to access and open under water, according to Il Secolo XIX daily in Genoa.

"I heard a terrible din and rushed out of my cabin," Roberto, the port's night watch, told La Repubblica newspaper. "It was an incredible sight: the control tower was leaning perilously."

At dawn, a mobile telephone which began to ring beneath the rubble strewn along the port raised the hopes of locating survivors, but it rang off before rescue workers could localise the sound.

An employee of the Messina Line company based in Genoa which owns the Jolly Nero confirmed that the ship had been involved in an accident when leaving the port but said the reason was not clear.

"The weather conditions were perfect, there was no wind, there were no other ships on the move. A ship of that size should not have been making that manoeuvre," Luigi Merlo, the head of Genoa's port authority, told reporters.

The crash spooked Italians still reeling from the Costa Concordia night-time shipwreck off Giglio island in January 2012 which left 32 people dead.

Indictment hearings against six suspects in the cruise liner disaster began in Italy on April 15th.

The main suspect is captain Francesco Schettino, who is accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, misinforming the coast guard after the crash and abandoning the ship during the rescue.

Around 3:30 am (0130 GMT), the Jolly Nero was moved away from the crash site, which was manned by dozens of firefighters according to an AFP photographer.

Genoa mayor Marco Doria said Italians were in mourning after this "very serious port accident which has struck an entire city".

The Italian container ship is almost 200 metres (655 feet) long, 30 metres (98 feet) wide, and has a gross tonnage of over 40,500. It was bound for Naples.

The ship's owner, Stefano Messina, who arrived at the port soon after the crash, choked back tears as he told journalists: "We are all utterly shocked. Nothing like this has ever happened before, we are desperate."

Prosecutors in the northwest Italian city opened an investigation while the Jolly Nero was sequestered by police, and the captain detained for questioning, reports said.

"Based on the few details which have emerged so far, it was an incomprehensible manoeuvre which could only be explained by a mechanical failure," said Il Secolo XIX newspaper, based in Genoa.

The captain was quoted as saying: "Two engines seem to have failed and we lost control of the ship."

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ACCIDENT

Cable car survivor must be returned to family in Italy, Israel court rules

An Israeli court ruled Monday that a boy whose parents died in an Italian cable car crash be returned to family in Italy, after his grandfather was accused of illegally bringing him to Israel.

Aya Biran , a paternal aunt of Eitan Biran who was the sole survivor of a deadly cable car crash in Italy, arrives at Tel Aviv’s Justice Court on October 10, 2021
Aya Biran , a paternal aunt of Eitan Biran who was the sole survivor of a deadly cable car crash in Italy, arrives at Tel Aviv’s Justice Court on October 10, 2021. Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP

The battle for custody of Eitan Biran, the sole survivor of the May accident that killed 14 people, has captured headlines since his maternal grandfather, Shmulik Peleg, brought him to Israel on a private jet last month.

The child lost his parents, younger brother and great-grandparents in the May 23 accident near the top of the Mottarone mountain in the northwestern Piedmont region, where the family was out on a Sunday excursion to the scenic spot served by the cable car.

The cable car’s pull cable snapped just before it reached destination. It then flew backwards, dislodging itself from a second, supporting cable, and crashed to the ground.

Investigations later revealed that emergency brakes that could have stopped the car on its supporting cable, avoiding the tragedy, had been deliberately deactivated to avoid delays following a technical malfunction.

Three individuals responsible for the cable car’s management were subsequently arrested.

The wreckage of a cable car that crashed on the slopes of the Mottarone peak above Stresa, Piedmont on May 23, 2021, killing 14.

The wreckage of a cable car that crashed on the slopes of the Mottarone peak above Stresa, Piedmont on May 23, 2021, killing 14. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

Peleg has insisted that he drove Eitan from Italy to Switzerland before jetting him back to Israel – instead of returning him paternal aunt Aya Biran, who lives in northern Italy – because Eitan’s late parents wanted him to be raised in the Jewish state.

But Peleg has become the subject kidnapping probe by Italian prosecutors and Israeli police questioned him over those allegations last month.

A statement Monday from the Tel Aviv court where Aya Biran had filed a complaint said judges “did not accept the grandfather’s claim that the aunt has no custody rights”.

It recognised an Italian judgement that established Biran as a legitimate guardian and said Peleg had “unlawfully” removed the boy from his aunt’s care.

The court “ordered the return of the minor to his usual place of residence in Italy”.

The court also found that “a connection” between the surviving members of the Italy- and Israel-based relatives was in Eitan’s “best interests”.

Peleg was also ordered to pay Biran’s legal fees, amounting to 70,000 shekels ($22,000).

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Shmuel Peleg, the grandfather of Eitan Biran, hugs a relative outside the Justice Court in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on October 8, 2021.

Shmuel Peleg, the grandfather of Eitan Biran, hugs a relative outside the Justice Court in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on October 8, 2021. Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP

The case has stirred emotions in Israel, and throngs of journalists had surrounded the Tel Aviv court for hearings last month, with some pro-Peleg protesters insisting it was wrong to send a Jewish child out of Israel.

Before judges ordered the sides to stop talking to the media, Peleg told Israel’s Channel 12 in September that his grandson was “in the place where he is supposed to be, in his home, in Israel.”

Eitan and his parents, Amit Biran and Tal Peleg, had been living in Italy, where Amit Biran was studying medicine, together with their other child, Tom.

Eitan suffered severe chest and abdominal injuries and spent a week in intensive care after the May accident that occurred when a cable snapped on the aerial tram bringing weekend visitors to the top of the Piedmont region’s Mottarone mountain.

The accident was one of Italy’s worst in over two decades.   

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