Costa Concordia: Italy cruise ship survivors found

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Media captionThe BBC's Bethany Bell reports on the search for survivors ''above and below'' the cruise ship

Three survivors have been found on the stricken cruise ship Costa Concordia, more than 24 hours after it ran aground off the Italian coast.

An Italian crew member with a serious leg injury has now been airlifted to the mainland, hours after a South Korean couple were rescued.

Three people are confirmed dead.

The captain has been arrested on suspicion of causing deaths. He denies claims by prosecutors that he left the ship before evacuation was complete.

First officer Ciro Ambrosio has also been detained.

The number of people unaccounted for has now fallen to 17, Tuscan regional official Enrico Rossi said. In all, more than 4.000 people were on the cruise ship when it got into difficulties on Friday night.

The ship's operator, Costa Crociere, said the vessel had been following its regular course when it hit a submerged rock.

Captain Francesco Schettino insisted he had been last to leave the ship, and said the rock was not marked on his nautical chart.

"It indicated that there was water deep below," he told Italian TV. "There shouldn't have been such a rock."

Police are investigating why the accident happened in calm conditions.

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Image caption The third survivor rescued from the ship was airlifted to the mainland for hospital treatment

The honeymooning South Korean couple were located after rescuers heard voices from a cabin two decks down on the half-submerged ship late on Saturday. They were reached a few hours later.

The couple, both 29 years old, were both in good health when they were brought ashore.

Underwater search

The third survivor has been named as Manrico Gianpetroni, an Italian national and a senior member of the crew. He has serious leg injuries.

He was placed on a stretcher and winched up to a rescue helicopter, to be taken to hospital on the mainland.

Two French passengers and a Peruvian crew member died, and another 30 people were injured, two seriously.

Divers are continuing to search the ship, which is lying on its side near the Tuscan island of Giglio. The president of Costa Cruises, Gianni Onorato, said the main task for the company was now to assist survivors and help repatriate them.

He said it was difficult to determine what had happened, but that the ship had experienced a blackout after hitting "a big rock".

Mr Onorato added: "We will be working in full transparency with Italian authorities" to understand the causes of the disaster.

He said normal lifeboat evacuation had become "almost impossible" because the ship had listed so quickly.

Capt Schettino, 52, had worked for Costa Cruises for 11 years.

The chief prosecutor in the city of Grosseto told reporters that Capt Schettino "very ineptly got close to Giglio", according to Italy's Ansa news agency.

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Image caption The South Korean man was brought ashore on a rescue boat, after being found with his wife

'Loud noise'

Italian, German, French and British nationals were among the 3,200 passengers on board. There were also 1,000 crew.

On Sunday morning, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague told Sky News all the Britons - 23 passengers and 12 crew - were now safe and accounted for.

Coast guard captain Cosimo Nicastro told Italian TV that divers had carried out an extensive search of the waters near the vessel and found no further bodies.

On Saturday, survivors were taken to Porta San Stefano, about 25km (15 miles) away on the mainland.

The BBC's Alan Johnson at the scene says many arrived there still wrapped in blankets, and some were clearly very shaken by what they had endured.

Passenger Luciano Castro told Ansa news agency: "We heard a loud noise while we were at dinner as if the keel of the ship hit something."

"The ship started taking in water through the hole and began tilting."

Some passengers told the Associated Press news agency that the crew had failed to give instructions on how to evacuate the ship.

Several passengers compared the accident to the film Titanic, about the sinking of the giant ocean liner in April 1912 which claimed more than 1,500 lives.

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