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Survivors recount frantic escape from sinking cruise ship

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:16 PM EST, Fri January 20, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "It was like the disaster movies," survivor Keiko Guest says
  • Several survivors say the ship's staff did not help them
  • Georgia Ananias: "We're standing there ... yelling, 'Save us, save us!'"

(CNN) -- Days after the Costa Concordia ran aground off Italy's coast, details of the harrowing escape from the ship are still fresh in survivors' minds. Here are some of the accounts they shared with CNN:

Nancy Lofaro of New Rochelle, New York: "It wasn't until approximately 30 to 40 minutes after the collision that we finally heard announcements being made, and in English, we heard that they were saying everything was under control ... that there was an electrical problem with the generator. My husband and I looked at each other and said, 'They're full of it. We have to get off this boat.'"

Valerie Ananias of Downey, California: "I kept telling my parents and I kept telling everybody else, we need to go. Time is of the essence. We need to get on (a lifeboat) as soon as possible because it continued to tilt. What happened was, when we finally got on the lifeboat, it took several minutes to get everybody on ... people were screaming and crying and they had us count."

Keiko Guest of Atlanta, Georgia: "We managed to get to a lifeboat that wasn't being overrun and the crew tried to keep us back and we felt all this pressure coming from behind ... stampeding, trying desperately to save their lives ... babies crying ... the siren was unbelievable. It was so piercing that the children and babies were screaming at the top of their lungs while everybody else was screaming to try to be heard. It was so chaotic. It was like the disaster movies."

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Georgia Ananias of Downey, California: "When the ship was listing ... we had to climb up and pull a human chain to pull ourselves up on to a stairwell. ... Another couple turned around and gave me their baby, and said, 'take my baby.' And I held a 3-year-old and I was holding on and the ship was moving and I was afraid the child was going to go down the stairwell. And I knew -- I looked at my husband who's been in the Navy, and he said, 'This is it,' and I handed the baby back to the parents and said, 'Be with your baby.'

"Not one person from the ship assisted us in any matter. There wasn't one officer. We got on a lifeboat that wouldn't function. We were all thrown out of the lifeboat and thrown against the walls of the ship. We crawled down under to try to get on the other side of the ship, because they said that if we got on the other side, we could get a lifeboat. And at the time, the ship shifted again, and we were thrown back.

"We had to crawl back out. We had to climb a 20-foot ladder. ... The real heroes were the people, the other passengers on board that lifted us up. And we had to go through crates of things. And then we get to the top of the ship, and we're up there with about 10 people. The rest of the people have left the ship, and you see coast guards and flashing lights, and you think they're coming for you, and the next thing you know, they're taking somebody from the bridge and airlifting them out. And we're standing there with our lights flashing and yelling, 'Save us, save us!'"

Justin Evans of Atlanta, Georgia: "The staff, you know, they seemed younger than me. They did not know what to do. They got on the lifeboats. They could not even drive the lifeboat. There was someone that jumped into the water, climbed onto the lifeboat and began to maneuver it to drive off. That saved us. He was a hero. Because we thought we were going to die."

CNN's Bonnie Turner contributed to this report.

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