msnbc | January 15, 2012
>>> search for survivors is under way off the coast of italy where this luxury cruise ship toppled into the sea after it ran aground saturday. thousands of passengers including over a hundred americans. they managed to escape. one described the ship's evacuation as absolute chaos.
>> everyone was trying to fight their way on to a boat and the crew members were having to knock people back. the crew members were definitely having a hard time controlling the situation at that point.
>> well, the half sunken vessel's torn hull is lying on its side. the divers are trying to find 17 people still missing in the wreck and the captain of the ship is under arrest. nbc's michelle kosinski is this. she has the latest. good morning, michelle.
>> reporter: hi alex. press is calling it the italian titanic. three people have lost their lives. the number unaccounted for dropped significantly today to 17 which you mentioned. but as people were being rescued, they were worried there were still passengers on board, trapped and they were right. this happened friday night. and the latest rescue was this afternoon.
>> this man just rescued spent more than 36 hours trapped inside that ship. this video shows just a leading edge of the swell of panic that engulfed the costa concordia friday night.
>> not safe here.
>> when survivors climbed into lifeboats, the ship already tilted sharply and sinking, fast. it started just after 10:00 p.m . only hours after the nearly thousand-foot cruise ship left its port. many guests were at dinner. heard a loud rumble. the ship had struck a rock. lights out, dishes crashing, sending more than 4,000 passengers and crew scrambling for an escape.
>> the rescue was awful. i mean, it was very, very disorganized.
>> they describe what they had only seen in movies, like titanic. falling nearly vertically up hallways. some said it took nearly an hour tore lifeboats to be lowered. by then the ship was on the side.
>> it was difficult for the lifeboats to get down because the ship was at an angle. the lifeboat can't go down the side of the boat like this. one of the boat was full of 200 people. the lifeboat tipped sideways and fell and swung and everybody screaming.
>> it took us five tries on different boats to get on. my husband and i finally got on and we feel so fortunate. we're so fortunate that we made on a boat because others didn't.
>> forcing many, entire families to choose a jump into the cold dark sea. hundreds of yards from shore.
>> i was very worried about when i was swimming, i keep looking at the boat just keep coming. i wanted to make sure we get further away so if this comes, it doesn't trap us. i have them on my back, kick, kick, swim, swim.
>> others were rescued by helicopters, small boat. the italian cruise line is owned by the american company carp vnival which offered heartfelt condolence. this is a tragedy and we are deeply saddened. they continue searching with good reason. more than 24 hours after this started, a south korean couple on their honeymoon were found alive on board. investigators arrested the captain pending their look into why on a route this ship travels every week and suddenly struck rock, lost power. a 160-foot gash in its hull. officials believe there were 125 americans on board, but none of them hurt. that captain arrested under investigation for manslaughter and abandoning ship has been quoted as saying that his navigational charts show the water was deep enough to be where he was. but that they did not show the rock. he denies abandoning the ship also. alex?
>>> michelle kosinski with the latest