ROME — Rescue workers pulled a fifth body from the wreckage Wednesday after a cargo ship crashed into the dock as it left Genoa, toppling the busy Italian port’s control tower into the harbor.
Four people were hospitalized and several others remained missing, possibly trapped inside the tower’s submerged elevator, Italian officials said.
As rescue workers searched frantically, Luca Cari, spokesman for firefighters at the scene, told The Associated Press that the fifth body was found near the elevator.
The crash occurred around 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) Tuesday night during a shift change, making the accounting of personnel more difficult.
By Wednesday morning, all that was left of the control tower was its mangled exterior staircase, tilted on its side. The tower itself — which was located on the edge of a dock jutting out into the harbor — was either in the water or in a heap of wreckage on the dock.
“This event is unbelievable because we had the best weather navigation conditions,” said Luigi Merlo, president of the Genoa port authority.
The ship was the Jolly Nero of the Ignazio Messina & C. SpA Italian shipping line. According to its website, the Genoa-based Messina Line has a fleet of 14 cargo ships, with the Italian-flagged Jolly Nero listed at 239 meters (784 feet) long and 30 meters (98 feet) wide.
There were no reports of missing ship crew.
The ANSA news agency quoted a tearful company official Stefano Messina as saying nothing like this had ever happened before to the company, which was founded in 1921.
“We are devastated,” he was quoted as saying.
Andrea Furgani, an ambulance doctor and one of the first rescuers, said crews initially brought four injured to area hospitals in Genoa.
“The conditions were critical. They mainly suffered wounds caused by compression, broken bones and wounds on the chest,” he told the AP.
The disaster shook a nation that just a year ago witnessed another shipping tragedy when the Costa Concordia cruise ship slammed into a reef off Tuscany, killing 32 people.
Parliament held a minute of silence for the victims in Genoa, the mayor of Genoa proclaimed a period of mourning and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano sent his condolences to the victims’ families on behalf of the nation.
Genoa’s port, located on Italy’s western Ligurian coast, is Italy’s busiest in terms of cargo handling, according to the port authority website. It is also a significant port for cruise ship departures.