At about 8 pm, passengers were in the dining hall when there was a sudden, loud bang, which a crew member (speaking over the intercom) ascribed to an "electrical failure". Passengers were later advised to put on their life-jackets. The ship tilted some 20 degrees. Amid panic, many passengers took to lifeboats, while some jumped into the water to swim to shore. Three passengers reportedly drowned after jumping overboard, and another seven were critically injured. According to the local coastguard, 3,206 passengers and 1,023 crew members were on board at the time.
Julian Bray, travel broadcaster and writer, reported: "Twelve hours later, a dozen passengers remain unaccounted for and many lifeboats (capacity 150 each) were not deployed due to the initial list and the subsequent rolling over of the vessel onto her side. Others were safely evacuated and taken to shelter on the island. The crew remained aboard and the shipping line initially insisted there was no danger of sinking.
The first daylight pictures showed the ship lying on its right side and half submerged, not far outside Giglio Harbour. Other reports indicated the ship had developed a major electrical fault. According to the local coast guard, the ship has a 30-metre (100 ft) gash on its port side. The Daily Mail showed images of a large gash with what appears to be a large rock lodged inside.