An American couple who survived the wreckage of an Italian cruise ship said today they had to tie sheets and a rope together to climb down the side of the sinking ship in order to escape.
"It was every man for himself," Emily Lau, an American passenger on board the Costa Concordia, said today on "Good Morning America." "The main thing is no one knew how to help because they were never trained. That is the cruise ship's fault."
Lau, 27, and her husband, Benji Smith, 34, had angry words for the ship's captain who is being detained and questioned for allegedly abandoning his passengers while the luxury liner keeled over onto its side after smashing into rocks. Six people died and more than one dozen others remain missing.
"[To the captain] I'd say, 'What a coward you are,'" Lau said. "People who were left behind -- we were helping each other to get out of there and stay alive. And he who is responsible for all of us left."
Lau and Smith, both of Boston, were spending their honeymoon on the ship, 14 days after their wedding in Cambridge, Mass.
The newlyweds were relaxing in their cabin when the ship -- sailing in the Mediterranean off the Italian coast with 4,234 passengers and crew -- began to tilt. They grabbed their lifejackets and moved to the fourth deck, where they knew the lifeboats were stored where they were met by what they described as untrained crew members and chaos.
"There was screaming, children crying and a lot of confusion," Smith recalled. "The official announcement from the loudspeaker didn't come on for 20 to 25 minutes."
"Even at that point, the announcement said there's been an electrical fault in the generators," he said. "Everyone knew this was nonsense, because the boat was leaning to the side, and since when does an electrical problem cause the boat to tilt?"
The chaos and fear was compounded by the lack of electricity, plunging the ship into darkness.
Smith and Lau were able to escape the sinking ship with a handful of other passengers by tying a rope and sheets into knots that they then used as a ladder to lower themselves them down to the bottom of the ship's hole, where they were eventually rescued by a lifeboat
"We have never had any drills," Lau said. "We were asked to go for a safety meeting, and it was nothing but a sales pitch for excursions."
Cruise passengers are required by law to attend a safety briefing within 24 hours of embarkation. Other passengers who joined the cruise at later locations had yet to attend any briefing at all, according to media reports.