Costa Concordia: Body found, bringing toll to 16

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Media captionBart Huizing, Smit salvage: "It's never a routine, there is always a risk"

Another body has been found inside the wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise ship in Italy, bringing the death toll to 16, officials say.

Salvage crews have begun preparations to empty the vessel's fuel tanks but officials say it will be days before the actual pumping process can begin.

It is likely to take about four weeks to complete the operation.

The Costa Concordia hit rocks off the Tuscan coast on 13 January with more than 4,200 people on board.

Italian officials have not confirmed reports that the body was that of a woman.

Divers are continuing to search for at least 16 more missing people on the 290m-long vessel.

Delicate balance

Navy explosive experts have blasted a hole into the submerged third deck of the ship to allow the search to continue.

A Dutch salvage company has brought a barge alongside the giant hulk as divers install external tanks that will collect more than 2,300 tonnes of diesel to be pumped out of the Concordia.

"While this operation is under way, rescue efforts are continuing simultaneously," fire services spokesman Claudio Chiavacci said, according to Reuters news agency.

The head of Italy's civil protection agency, Franco Gabrielli, said the salvage workers were likely to begin collecting oil by Saturday.

They are expected to use a so-called "hot-tapping" operation, in which the fuel will be pumped out into a nearby ship and replaced with water so as not to affect the ship's balance.

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.