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17 cruise passengers died in Tunis terror attack

17 cruise passengers died in Tunis terror attack
A total of 17 cruise passengers were among the 20 people killed in the Tunis terrorist attack, according to Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises. A further 21 passengers were injured.

Passengers on excursions from Costa Fascinosa and MSC Splendida were among the tourists caught in the gunfire Wednesday at the Bardo National Museum in the heart of the Tunisian capital.

Five Costa Fascinosa passengers died and eight were injured, Costa Cruises said Thursday. The five included four Italians and one Russian. The eight people who were hurt, seven Italians and one Russian, are being treated in hospital.

Costa ceo Michael Thamm 'strongly condemn[ed] the attack on democratic Tunisia,' adding: 'Our deepest sympathy and our condolences go to the victims and their families. We share their sorrow.'

Twelve MSC Splendida passengers were killed, while 13 were injured, two of them seriously, and a young couple who were missing have been found safe, MSC Cruises said Thursday. Among the dead are two Colombians, three French, three Japanese, two Spaniards, one Briton and one Belgian. The injured people include one Belgian, seven French, four Japanese and one South African. MSC confirmed all US and Canadian passengers on MSC Splendida were safe.

MSC said the two Spanish citizens, Cristina Rubio Benlloch and Juan Carlos Sanchez Oltra, who had been missing, spent the night in hiding at the Bardo Museum. The woman, who is pregnant, was immediately taken to hospital where she is reported well.

MSC Cruises executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago is in Tunis, where the company had a crisis team on the scene within hours of the attack.

Vago met with the Tunisian Tourism Minister Salma Elloumi Rekik. At the meeting, the minister said a total of 20 people died in the attack. 

MSC expressed 'profound sadness' over the deaths and injuries, adding the MSC Cruises family's 'sincere and heartfelt condolences to all those who were affected by this tragic event and are suffering as a result, in particular to the families and friends of those who lost their lives as well as the injured ones.'

As soon as they were informed of the attack at the museum, Costa and MSC captains ordered all excursions back to the ships at La Goulette, the port of Tunis. Security was beefed up on board, at the port and around the ships.

Both Costa and MSC immediately dispatched crisis teams and have been in continuous contact with the relevant national and international authorities.

Costa Fascinosa departed at 1:55 a.m., and passengers are being given the option to disembark Friday at Palma de Mallorca, with Costa footing the bill for their return flights home. One of the company's senior executives, Norbert Stiekema, evp sales and marketing, is aboard with the passengers. Senior vp Beniamino Maltese and a care team are looking after those in hospital and the companions of the victims. 

'Our immediate priority is the assistance to our passengers and crew affected by this tragic event, and ensuring their safe passage home,' Costa president Neil Palomba said.

MSC Splendida also sailed early Thursday and is due to reach Barcelona 9 a.m. Friday.

MSC Splendida arrived in Tunis with 3,714 passengers and 1,267 crew members aboard. Costa Fascinosa was carrying 3,161 passengers when it arrived, and 3,148 when it left.

At the cruise industry's largest annual gathering, Cruise Shipping Miami, a moment of silence was observed in the conference sessions and on the trade show floor Thursday morning.