The sinking of Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia last weekend has ripples in Southern California for a Downey family that survived the deadly five and a half hour ordeal.
Georgia Ananias spoke to KPCC's Hettie Lynne Hurtes on Tuesday, recounting the pandemonium experienced off the island of Giglio.
Ananias, a seasoned cruiser with over 75 voyages to her credit, detailed the screaming, crying, and bodies flying as it became clear that the boat's trouble was not the electrical problem the cruise personnel initially claimed.
Language barriers, misinformation and a lack of direction led to a chaotic shift into survival mode. "Four times we almost died," said Ananias, who got emotional as she told how her family starting saying their final goodbyes.
"The only way anyone survived was to stick together," the woman continued, remembering a painful moment of fighting gravity while gripping a staircase with one hand and holding a stranger's baby with the other.
Problems at sea turned to problems on land when survivors were met with no help, no ship representative, and no officials, she claims. The Italian people, however, opened their homes and stores to distribute blankets and warm clothes to the survivors, according to her account.
She also claims the cruise company separated the few Americans into different hotels in Rome and wouldn’t let her leave for the American embassy where she intended to replace her passport.
Ananias remarked that she now jumps every time something shakes and that her entire family will need couseling to recover from the traumatic experience. "We will get help for all of us," she said with determination.
In comparison to the Titanic, the Costa Concordia was longer, weighed twice as much, and carried double the number of passengers.