Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Hopes fade for cruise ship missing

An oil removal ship nears the Costa Concordia amid fears fuel may begin to leak from the vessel (AP)
The ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, is being investigated by prosecutors for possible manslaughter (AP)

Fears are growing for the 29 people still missing from a shipwreck off Italy, four days after the vessel crashed.

The Italian coastguard said 25 passengers and four crew members remained unaccounted for after the Costa Concordia ran into a reef off the Tuscan coast near the island of Giglio on Friday.

Six people have been confirmed dead and officials have revised the number of those missing up from an estimated 16 people.

At least three Italian families have said that although their loved ones were listed among those safely evacuated, they had not heard from them. About 10 Germans and two Americans were thought to be among those unaccounted for.

Coastguard official Marco Brusco said he held a "glimmer of hope" that some of the missing might have survived, but Giglio mayor Sergio Ortelli said earlier that hopes of finding any of them alive were minimal. He told the Italian press that the only hope was that bubbles of air had formed within the ship after it hit the rocks.

Meanwhile, the tragedy could also become an environmental crisis as rough seas battering the ship have raised fears fuel might leak into waters that are part of a protected sanctuary for dolphins, porpoises and whales. Costa Cruises was concerned about the 500,000 gallons of fuel on board which are in 17 separate tanks. It is feared that any further movement of the ship could cause some of it to leak into the water.

The operators of the cruise liner have blamed the captain for sailing close to land to "show the ship to the port". The chairman of Costa Cruises said the unauthorised deviation from the route had been taken to "make a salute".

Pier Luigi Foschi has apologised for the tragedy which has left dozens of people injured and the 114,000-tonne Costa Concordia lying on its side off Tuscany.

At the centre of the investigation into the disaster is the liner's captain, Francesco Schettino, who is being investigated by prosecutors for possible manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing a shipwreck. He has been accused of leaving the vessel before ensuring that all of the 4,200 people aboard, including 35 Britons, were safely evacuated.

Capt Schettino insisted in an interview before his jailing that he stayed with the vessel to the end however. A judge will decide today whether Capt Schettino should stay in jail.

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