The giant Costa Concordia liner, carrying more than 4000 passengers and crew members, got into difficulties after apparantly hitting a rock or a sandbar (not yet confirmed). It took on water, with reports of a large gash on its side and started tipping over the near island of Giglio, while passengers were having dinner, EURONEWS reports.
While rescue operations began, some people onboard jumped into the water to try to swim ashore.
Most of the people onboard were Italians, but there were also a large number of Germans and French passangers as well as some British nationals.
The first report puts the number of deaths at up to 8.
Passengers and crew members were evacuated to the island, before being taken to the mainland.
Investigation has begun as to what went wrong.