50 hurt as freak wave hits QE2

FIFTY people were injured on board the QE2 ocean liner when a freak 30ft wave hit it off Land's End, it emerged last night.

Three people - a German, an American and a Canadian - were taken to hospital yesterday when the ship docked in Southampton at the end of a five-day trip from New York. One had a broken arm, the others bad cuts.

The wave struck in heavy seas at 1.30pm last Friday, sending the ship into a deep roll. People were thrown across the room, dozens of glasses were broken and a grand piano skated across the width of the dance floor and back again, after breaking free from metal fixtures. The ship, owned by Cunard, was carrying 1,800 passengers and 1,000 crew.

The entertainer Rolf Harris, who was performing on the luxury liner, spoke last night about the incident. Mr Harris was sitting in a dining area with his daughter Bindi when the wave hit. 'It was a very scary roll. We looked out the window and we couldn't see any sky,' he said.

'It was a freak tilt that didn't straighten up. When it did, the relief was enormous.

'It was like looking up a big hill, straight up. We had had a bit of rolling from starboard to port and back. People were hanging on and all of a sudden it rolled back to starboard and just kept going.'

Many had ended up on the floor. One man had flown through the air on his chair and crashed into a wall. 'I fetched up at the next table. My daughter went skating backwards.

'One of the stewards, Shaun, was very calm, and told everyone to sit down and take a firm grip of the table, because they were anchored to the floor.'

One woman received the contents of the salad bar in her lap. The passenger with a broken arm was thrown against the rail on the deck.

The 50 injured were treated in the ship's hospital, mainly for minor cuts and bruises.

The 66,000-ton Clyde-built ship, launched in 1967, returned to service a year ago after it hit a submerged rock and was holed off Massachusetts. Repairs to the damage caused in the accident in August last year cost an estimated pounds 2m.