Cruise Ship Mishap In France; At Least 11 Killed

(ST. NAZAIRE, France, Saturday, November 15, 2003, 10:30 a.m.)-- A crowded gangway collapsed Saturday on the Queen Mary 2, which is to be the world's largest passenger ship, killing at least 11 people and injuring 20 others, fire officials said.

Dozens of people were on the gangway leading from the dock to the ship when it collapsed, according to the Operational Center Fire and Rescue Center. Along with workers finishing construction, there were visitors on the boat at the time of the accident, but it was unknown whether any were hurt or killed.

The Queen Mary 2 is nearly 80 yards high _ about the height of a 21-story building _ though it wasn't immediately known how high up the gangplank was.

The QM2 is currently docked at this Atlantic coast shipyard where it remains under construction. The 150,000-ton trans-Atlantic liner recently finished its second test run. The first was in September.

Finishing touches are still being made on the oceanliner which features a planetarium, 22 elevators and the largest floating library.

Once it is completed, the $800 million QM2 _ the world's longest, tallest and most expensive passenger ship _ will join an illustrious list of massive passenger ships.

The Queen Elizabeth 2, whose trans-Atlantic route will be taken over by the new ship in April,  was built in 1967; the original Queen Mary was launched in 1934 and is now a hotel in Long Beach, California.

In sheer size, the QM2 tops them all. It's 377 yards long and will weigh more than twice the QE2's 70,000 tons.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s Voyager-class ships, about 138,000 tons, are currently the largest cruise ships in service.

The ship is being built by Alstom Marine's Chantiers de l'Atlantique for the British ship operator Cunard Line, which is owned by Carnival Corp.

Some 800 companies, mostly French, have been involved in the construction.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)