World

Costa Concordia: Bodies found as fuel pumping to start

  • 23 January 2012
  • From the section World
Fuel spill experts work on the Costa Concordia (21 January)
Image caption Fuel spill experts have been examining the wreck, which is carrying about 1.9m litres of fuel

Searchers have found the bodies of two women on the wreck of the cruise ship Costa Concordia, bringing the confirmed death toll to 15.

Italian authorities say the pumping of fuel from the stricken vessel can proceed in tandem with the search of the wreck.

The Costa Concordia ran aground off the Tuscan coast on 13 January with 4,200 people on board.

It is carrying about 1.9m litres of fuel in 13 tanks.

An Italian naval vessel is on standby in case of oil leaks.

'Green light'

The BBC's Luisa Baldini, on the Tuscan island of Giglio, says the bodies of the two women were found near the internet cafe, on the fourth deck.

There is no decision yet on when fuel pumping will begin but the civil protection agency has said it is likely to start within the next 24 hours.

Civil protection official Franco Gabrielli told reporters on Giglio there was no risk the Costa Concordia would drop down to a lower seabed.

"We are ready to go," an official from the Dutch salvage company Smit told the BBC. "As soon as we get the green light, we start the work".

But our correspondent says the salvagers must first attach steel moorings to the front of the ship. They will not want to start pumping in the dark, she says, so work is likely to begin on Tuesday.

Smit must also install a double containment boom around the ship to limit any spill, instead of the single boom originally envisaged.

"Booms are commonly used to reduce the possibility of polluting shorelines and to help make oil recovery easier," Smit said in a statement.

The Costa Concordia crashed on the first day of a seven-day cruise around the Mediterranean, when it was carrying a full load of fuel.

Divers

Although there has been no leak so far, the civil protection agency says there is pollution in the water from solvents and disinfectants which were on board the vessel.

The area around Giglio is part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park, which describes itself as the largest marine park in Europe. It is home to rare flora and fauna, including tree frogs, finches, and geckos.

Italian Admiral Ilarione Dell'Anna predicted it would take 28 days to remove all of the fuel, without any interruptions, the Associated Press reports.

Search and rescue work has been suspended several times owing to bad weather.

Coastguard and navy divers have been blasting their way into submerged areas of the vessel using explosives in an effort to find those unaccounted for.

Emergency officials said on Saturday they would not end the search until the whole ship had been examined.

The captain of the Costa Concordia, Francesco Schettino, is under house arrest in his home town of Meta di Sorrento, near Naples, while his actions are investigated.

He is accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, and abandoning ship before all passengers were evacuated. He denies the allegations.

Capt Schettino tested negative for drugs, his lawyer said on Monday.

Eighteen people are still missing, but fears that extra, unregistered passengers may have been on the ship have now diminished.

A Hungarian woman whose name was not on the passenger list was initially said to be missing after having contacted her family from the ship on the day it set sail.

However, the Hungarian foreign ministry has told the Italian authorities its inquiries show the individual who declared her missing did so using a false identity, that of a person who has been dead for three years.

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