-Costa Concordia developed electrical fault two hours after leaving port
-Three bodies recovered from water and 4,200 passengers and crew evacuated
-One victim, 65, died from heart attack following shock of cold water
-Passengers 'forced to leap into the water to swim to safety'
-Liner had listed so badly 'lifeboats had difficulty being launched'
-24 Britons on board but none believed to have died or been injured
By EMILY ALLEN
Tragedy: A terrified passenger said it was 'like a scene from the Titanic' as the ship began to sink and people were ordered into lifeboats and airlifted to safety
Three people were killed and more than 4,000 passengers and crew were rescued last night after a packed cruise liner began capsizing off the Italian coast after running aground.
Twenty-four British holidaymakers were on the Costa Concordia which had left port at 7pm for a seven-day Mediterranean Cruise - but within two hours, it ran aground in the sea with a major electrical fault.
The 13 deck liner then began to take on water after hitting rocks creating a 160ft gash in the hull, near the island of Giglio, off the Tuscan coast,
Passengers said the ship had begun to sink so much it was difficult to launch lifeboats, while some said they saw holiday-makers leaping into the water to swim to safety.
Damage: The luxury cruise liner lies virtually flat, its right-hand side submerged in the water. The huge whole in the hull is clearly visible
At least three bodies have been recovered from the sea, although earlier estimates suggested eight were dead. Fourteen people are believed to have minor injuries such as bruising.
The Foreign Office said it was not aware of any injuries or fatalities to Britons.
Among the dead was a man around age 65, who officials believe may not have been able to withstand the cold of the sea at night.
Submerged: Passengers said it was difficult to launch lifeboats as they ship had listed so much but fortunately ferries arrived to rescue them
Collision: Rocks emerge from the damaged side the Costa Concordia revealing the extent of the damage to the hull
Close-up: A woman looks at the cruise ship as it lies half in the water off the coast of Italy. Three people have been killed
It is thought that the death toll may still rise and there are believed to be at least three other unconfirmed fatalities.
Terrified passengers were ordered to put on life vests and man life boats as the 850ft-long luxury 'floating palace', which costs up to £1,200 a night, began to list heavily to one side.
Helicopters plucked to safety some 50 people who were trapped on the liner.
Waiting game: A passenger took this photo of a group of passengers in life-jackets on board the liner as they waited to be rescued
Darkness: The hull of the massive Costa Concordia was damaged as it ran aground and water began pouring in
'We were having dinner aboard when we heard a loud noise, like that of the keel being dragged over something,' passenger Luciano Castro told Italian state radio.
The lights went out 'and there were scenes of panic, glasses falling to the floor,' he said.
Another passenger Mara Parmegiani said 'it was like a scene from the Titanic.'
Survivor Christine Hammer, from Bonn, Germany, shivered near the harbor of Porto Santo Stefano, on the mainland, after stepping off a ferry from Giglio.
Disaster: The Costa Concordia lies partly submerged this morning after hitting rocks. So passengers were rescued by helicopter
Worried: Passengers in life jackets, blankets and coats arrive on the ferry this morning following the disaster off the coast of Tuscany last night
Rescue: A Carabinieri boat approaches the Costa Concordia as it lies partly submerged in the water off the coast of Tuscany