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Captain held over liner disaster

Forty people from the stricken cruise liner Costa Concordia are still missing as it was reported that the ship's captain and first officer were being questioned by Italian prosecutors on suspicion of manslaughter.

The country's state television claimed Master Francesco Schettino and the officer were being quizzed over the events that led to at least three deaths among passengers and crew after the Italian-owned liner listed and keeled over a few hundred metres from the tiny Tuscan holiday island of Giglio on Friday evening after apparently sailing off course.

Unconfirmed reports indicated they were being held on suspicion of "abandoning ship" and "multiple manslaughter".

The incident happened in the centenary year of the Titanic disaster, in which more than 1,500 people died when the luxury liner struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage.

Despite the panic among passengers and crew as the Costa Concordia began to list, the vast majority of more than 4,200 people on board made it to safety as a massive rescue operation swung into action.

Initial estimates had put the number of missing at 70 but as rescue operations continued that figure fell to 40.

British consular staff were on hand to help the 37 Britons aboard the Concordia - 25 passengers and 12 crew members. Costa Cruises said all were accounted for but the Foreign Office was unable to confirm this.

It was thought some of the Britons had headed to Rome and consular staff were working to secure emergency travel documents for them to fly home after their passports were lost.

Divers continue to scour the submerged hull for the missing. It is not known yet what caused the liner to crash into rocks ripping a massive gash in its hull. Pictures showed a 150ft long rip, with a huge rock embedded in the side of the ship towards the stern.

The Italian media later reported that a man and a woman had been located alive on board the stricken ship. It is said the survivors were on the deck levels above the water line and a team of firefighters had been sent on board the vessel to rescue them.


From Belfast Telegraph