Costa Concordia: Fuel pumping delay as toll rises to 17

The BBC's Alan Johnston: "The body of a woman was found... she was not wearing a lifejacket"

Operations to pump fuel from the tanks of the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship lying off the Italian coast have been delayed because of bad weather.

Dutch salvage company Smit says it now hopes to begin work next week on pumping more than 2,300 tonnes of diesel out of the 290m-long vessel.

Meanwhile, divers searching the wreck have found the body of a woman, bringing the death toll to 17.

The woman was wearing uniform, indicating she was a crew member.

The ship ran aground on 13 January with more than 4,200 people on board.

Another 15 people are still missing.

Salvage

"We were ready this morning [Saturday] to commence oil pumping in the course of the day," Smit spokesman Martijn Schuttevaer told a news conference.

"Unfortunately the weather had turned in our disadvantage as it deteriorated and therefore towards the end of the morning we had to demobilise our vessel, the Moloria, back from the side of the ship back into the port here."

Oil pumping is now expected to begin in the middle of next week. Bad weather is forecast until Tuesday.

Smit has withdrawn a barge that had been placed alongside the hulk of the Costa Concordia.

The salvage firm has been explaining how it will remove the fuel

The operation is expected to take about four weeks to complete.

The BBC's Alan Johnston in Rome says the delay will add to fears that a leak could cause an environmental disaster in the marine national park where the ship capsized.

On Saturday morning divers searching submerged parts of the wreck found the body of a woman, wearing the ship's uniform, on deck number six. No further details of her identity or nationality have been released.

The Costa Concordia is lying on its side off Giglio island, where it hit rocks at the start of a Mediterranean cruise.

The captain, Francesco Schettino, is under house arrest while his actions are being investigated.

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

Costa Crociere, which is part of the world's largest cruise ship operator Carnival Group, has offered uninjured passengers 11,000 euros ($14,500; £9,200) each in compensation, on condition that they drop any legal action.

However, a consumer group and two US law firms are filing a class-action lawsuit in the US, demanding at least $160,000 (£105,000) for each passenger on the ship.

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