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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 November, 2003, 16:40 GMT
Queen Mary 2 accident kills 12
Queen Mary 2
Finishing touches are being put on Queen Mary 2 in France
Twelve people, including children, have died after a gangway on the new cruise ship Queen Mary 2 collapsed.

About 32 people, believed to be mostly workers' relatives, were also injured in the accident on Saturday.

The unfinished ship, destined to be the flagship liner of Cunard, is in dry dock in the western French shipyard of Saint Nazaire.

The ship completed sea trials a few days ago and is due to sail to her home port of Southampton around Christmas.

"According to the latest figures there are 12 dead, about 12 badly injured and another 20 that are lightly injured," said Philippe Kasse, a spokesman for the shipyard owner Alstom Marine.

A spokesman at General Hospital in Saint Nazaire, Luc Ronchi, said four people had been admitted to his hospital, and "two children died at the scene".

Four medical teams were at the dockyard, with surgery cancelled at the hospital to deal with more admissions, he told BBC News 24.

The victims were family members of workers given permission to visit the vessel, according to a local official, Herve Malherbe, chief aide at the Loire-Atlantic prefecture.

An official visit involving dignitaries was also underway at the time of the accident.

Emergency services said the death toll could rise.

They added that the victims fell from "a great height", but it was unclear if the gangway was inside or outside the ship.

Flagship liner

The Queen Mary 2 is the largest passenger ship ever built, 345 metres long and as tall as a 23-storey building.

It is under construction at the Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard, owned by French heavy engineering firm Alstom.

Construction on the world's most expensive liner began in 2002, and it will become the flagship of British shipping line Cunard.

The 550m, 2,620-passenger Cunard flagship is due to sail to Southampton, where the Queen is expected to officially name the vessel in a ceremony on 8 January, 2004.

The ship is due to begin its maiden passenger voyage to Florida four days later.

From next April, the new ship will take over Cunard's Southampton-New York run from the QE2 which will be sailing on other routes.

The BBC's Clarence Mitchell
"Dozens of people were trying to board the liner"

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