French authorities say at least 13 people died, and another 32 were injured after the gangway to a newly constructed cruise ship collapsed in western France Saturday.

Billed as the world's most expensive and biggest cruise ship, the Queen Mary II cruiseliner suffered its first tragedy Saturday before ever setting out on its maiden voyage. The ship's gangplank collapsed at around 2:30 p.m. local time, just as dozens of people were crossing to board the liner, docked at France's Saint Nazaire shipyard.

Saint Nazaire's deputy prefect, Jean-Marc Falcone, told French radio that between 35 to 40 people were on the gangway when it collapsed.

Mr. Falcone said the people fell about 15 meters. Emergency medical teams rushed the victims to local hospitals. Local officials say several children were among those dead. Mr. Falcone said French authorities had launched an investigation, to determine the cause of the accident.

The immense cruiseliner stretches the length of four football fields, and can board up to 2,600 passengers. The ship completed its last sea trial off Frances Brittany coast last week. It was due to make its first trip from the British port of Southampton, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, this coming January. Tickets for its maiden voyage start at more than $3,600.

Owned by the Carnival business group, the liner is only expected to make the trans-Atlantic crossing about 20 times a year. During the rest of the time, the ship will steam off on luxury cruises to other parts of the world.