The captain of doomed ship Costa Concordia was in denial about the seriousness of the accident, telling passengers it was merely suffering from a power cut.

Francesco Schettino feared that the ship was “going down” after the vessel hit a reef off the Italian island of Giglio in January.

But he told an officer on the bridge not to tell passengers of the true extent of the disaster.

“Say that there has been a blackout,” he ordered, according to recorded conversations from the bridge recovered from the ship’s black box data recorder, obtained by La Stampa newspaper.

“Madonna, what have I done?” he was reportedly recorded as saying just seconds after the ship hit the reef at 9.45pm.

In a frantic call to the officer in command of the ship’s engine room, he asked: “So are we really going down?”

He allegedly made a false assurance to the Italian Coast Guard, saying: “We’ve had a blackout, we’re just evaluating … at most we’re going to need a tug boat.”

As the evacuation of the 4,200 passengers and crew got under way, Schettino telephoned his wife to tell her that everything was “under control”.

“We hit a reef, the ship is listing but I performed a great manoeuvre … everything is under control,” he told her in a call at 11.08pm. However, added: “My career as a captain is over.”

He was still resisting calls from his officers to abandon the ship at 11.19pm, the Daily Telegraph reported.

He has claimed he later “tripped” and fell into a lifeboat which took him to shore before the evacuation was complete.

Prosecutors have accused the captain of deliberately misleading the Coast Guard and Costa Cruises as to the true extent of the disaster, which led to the deaths of 32 people.

Schettino is being investigated on charges of manslaughter, abandoning ship and failing to communicate with maritime authorities.

The next hearing in the investigation is due to start on October 15, after which he is expected to be sent to trial.

Salvage experts are trying to refloat Concordia, after which it will be towed to an Italian port and broken up for scrap.