Report By: Nina Rai
23 March, 2012
Months after Costa Concordia cruise ship struck a reef off the Tuscan island of Giglio on Jan 13, search crews have found five more bodies from the wreckage, informed officials here on Thursday.
With this latest find, the toll of fatalities from the luxury liner has risen to thirty. Two persons are still missing, in all probability maybe dead now. No details have been released about the latest victims.
The five bodies were all found in the section between the hull and the seabed off the Tuscan island, according to the Italian Civil Protection Agency (IPCA), which is overseeing the search operations.
An IPCA official Franco Gabrielli, coordinating the Costa Concordia search and salvage efforts gave the information about the latest find.
He told the island’s media that the bodies of passengers were spotted when divers were in the process of setting up a robotic device to search otherwise remote parts of the wreck.
According to Gabrielli the bodies were noticed "in the spaces between the hull and the seabed." It would however, take many days of operations to remove the bodies, he added.
Till date, before Thursday, all the other bodies had been found inside the ship, except for three found in the sea near the ship in the early hours after the Concordia capsized.
The Costa Concordia liner first hit a rocky reef, water slowly gushed in and it capsized close to the port of the tiny island of Giglio off Tuscany.
Ever since the Italian cruise liner turned over, it has been resting precariously on its side, partly immersed in water.
Soon thereafter deep sea divers and searchers have been painstakingly combing the half-submerged ship, from passenger cabins to elevators to the decks.
On board, at the time disaster stuck, there where nearly 4,200 passengers and crew all of whom had huddled together on the decks during the delayed and frenzied evacuation.
In the melee several people lunged into the sea especially when lifeboats could not be used due to the ship's slant.
Prior to this find, eight bodies were discovered and removed from the ship few weeks ago. Those bodies have still not been officially identified.
Since these bodies had been submerged in water for weeks, they were found to be horribly decomposed. As a result the forensic experts had to resort to DNA testing to try to identify them.
Among those passengers listed as missing or unidentified are an Indian crew member and several Italian and German nationals, including an elderly American couple.
The ill-fated Costa Concordia half-sank in a protected sea zone and since February 12, the salvage crew has been pumping out spilled oil from the ship’s 17 tanks in an effort to save the waters from pollutants.
This fuel clearing endeavor is expected to be completed by Friday evening, informed officials of Costa Crociere SpA., the Italian shipping firm.
Both the search for bodies and fuel cleansing had to be halted at times due to sporadic inclement weather and choppy sea waters.
The process of total clearance of the Concordia wreckage would take nearly twelve months. As such bids for the operation are being actively assessed.
Meanwhile, the Italian Captain, Francesco Schettino of the Costa Concordia is under house arrest near Naples. He is being investigated for alleged multiple manslaughter, being responsible for shipwreck and deserting his ship during the evacuation.
On his part Schettino has refuted any claims of wrongdoing. According to him the reefs which stuck the ship were not marked on his charts.
Moreover, police are also investigating allegations that Francesco Schettino on purpose came close to the island in a bid to do ‘island salute’ to show off before his female crew..
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