GENOA — At least six people have died and four are missing after a container ship crashed into a control tower in the Italian port of Genoa, officials say.
The Jolly Nero smashed into the 50 metre concrete and glass tower late at night, reducing it to rubble.
Three of those who died are believed to have been trapped inside a lift as the tower collapsed.
Rescue workers have been searching in the rubble for survivors while divers scoured the water around the dock.
The accident occurred at about 23:00 last night, when a shift change was taking place in the control tower and about 13 people were thought to be inside.
The ship was manoeuvring out of the port with the help of tugboats in calm conditions, on its way to Naples, reports said.
The cause of the crash was not immediately clear, but Genoa’s Il Secolo XIX newspaper quoted the Jolly Nero’s captain as saying that two engines appeared to have failed and “we lost control of the ship”.
The head of the Genoa Port Authority, Luigi Merlo, told the newspaper: “It’s very difficult to explain how this could have happened because the ship should not have been where it was.”
He described conditions in the port at the time of the crash as “perfect”.
“It’s a terrible tragedy. We’re in turmoil, speechless,” Merlo told local TV.
The ship’s owner, Stefano Messina, who arrived at the port soon after the crash, had tears in his eyes as he told journalists: “We are all utterly shocked. Nothing like this has ever happened before, we are desperate.”
Genoa is Italy’s busiest port. Mayor Marco Doria said there were an average of 14 accidents a year, but that the incident was unprecedented.
All that was left of the control tower after the crash was a buckled metal exterior staircase. (BBC)