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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 November, 2003, 21:50 GMT
Inquiry into cruise liner deaths
Queen Mary 2
The liner will become the flagship for Cunard
An investigation has begun into an accident on a Cunard cruise liner that killed 13 people.

They died when a gangway collapsed on the almost-complete Queen Mary 2 as relatives of the ship workers visited on Saturday.

About 32 people, including children, were also injured in the accident in the western French port of Saint Nazaire.

French president Jacques Chirac has offered his sympathy to the bereaved and will visit the site on Sunday.

Two groups of families of engineers who had worked on the ship were being shown around the liner when the accident happened, a spokesman for shipyard owners Alstom told BBC Radio 5.

Pride in work

"Here there is a pride to participate in the construction of Queen Mary 2.

"Those engineers were happy to show the results of their work. It is really a tragedy."

The poor people fell down direct from a height of 15 metres
Alstom spokesman
He said it was still not known why the gangway collapsed.

"Unfortunately the ship is now dry docked so there is no water below.

"The poor people fell down direct from a height of 15 metres to the bottom of the dock."

The gangway was put in place by specialist French firm Endel, a unit of French utilities giant Suez, Alstom said.

The company said it had been designed to hold far more people than were on it when it collapsed.

"An investigation is under way to establish the cause of the accident," Alstom spokesman Severine Gagneraud said.

The ship, destined to be the flagship of Cunard, completed sea trials a few days ago and is due to sail to her home port of Southampton around Christmas.

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.

Flagship liner

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

It has been under construction at the Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard since 2002.

The 550m, 2,620-passenger liner 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
"A French investigation is now underway"

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