Captain left Italy ship amid panic: Crew
Manila - The captain of a doomed Italian cruise ship left the vessel while panicked passengers were still crowding the decks, Filipino crew members said in comments published on Friday.
Speaking after returning to the Philippines, some of the 300 Filipinos working on the Costa Concordia that ran aground off the Tuscan coast last week said they had been left to try and save passengers after the captain fled.
"Our captain may have done his best but clearly he also made a big mistake," Benigno Ignacio, a chef on the ship, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper.
"His fault was he abandoned the ship while the ship's crew including us Filipinos were busy saving the lives of the passengers."
Ship steward Eugen Pusyo credited the captain, Francesco Schettino, with saving lives by steering the ship towards a nearby island after it ran into trouble.
"The mistake of the captain was that he left the ship immediately, even before all the passengers had been rescued," Pusyo was quoted as saying in the Manila Bulletin newspaper.
"The passengers were starting to panic and most of them were not wearing life vests," he added, describing scenes of chaos aboard the ship.
"It felt like the Titanic as we were rescuing the passengers. We just threw some of children into lifeboats just so they would be saved."
Schettino is under house arrest in Italy and could face charges of multiple manslaughter. He has denied abandoning the vessel, saying he fell off the ship and into a lifeboat.
The disaster has claimed at least 11 lives, with 21 other people still missing.
Many of the Filipino crew flew back to Manila on Thursday.