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Costa Concordia cruise tragedy: Search for girl aged five as death toll rises

The bodies of five more passengers were discovered in the wreckage of the Costa Concordia yesterday, as the feared death toll from the disaster continued to rise.

Authorities believe up to 25 passengers and four crew – including a five-year-old Italian girl and a woman on her honeymoon – to be still missing. So far 11 people are known to have perished.

A team of 700 are involved in the recovery operation, although hopes of finding anyone alive below the waterline of the ship are slim. Local police said it was possible some of the missing may have made their way home without contacting the authorities during the chaos of evacuation, while others may be among unidentified bodies found yesterday.

Among the missing are a group of up to 14 German tourists, as well as five Italian, four French and two Americans. Four crew members from Italy, Peru, India and Hungary are also feared lost.

A five-year-old girl, Dyana Arlotti, and her father William, 34, from Rimini, are unaccounted for. Also missing is Maria D'Introno, 30, from Turin, who was on her honeymoon. She is the only one from the wedding party not to reach safety.

The latest bodies – four men and a woman – were discovered by divers at the stern near an emergency evacuation point. They were wearing life jackets and aged between 50 and 60. All are believed to be passengers. Of the confirmed dead, two are known to be French, one is Italian, one Spanish and one is a Peruvian crew member.

Earlier, rescuers used three controlled explosions to blast into the ship, where they discovered the former holiday playground has been transformed by heavy floating furniture and pitch-black conditions into a perilous maze of cabins, bars and spas. The search is now focusing on areas of the ship where the passengers gathered. However, as one tearful firefighter said: "Virtually all the dry part has been searched. It would need a miracle to find anyone alive in the wet part."

Underwater cameras have assisted the search but no survivors have been found since Sunday. Luckily the weather improved yesterday after high seas caused the rescue effort to be suspended on Monday. However, meteorologists forecast a worsening of conditions in coming days.

Meanwhile, Smit, a Netherlands-based salvage company said it would take its engineers and divers up to four weeks to extract the 500,000 gallons of fuel aboard the ship. It also emerged that Carnival, the holding company of Costa Cruises, has called in Clarence Mitchell, spokesman for the family of missing toddler Madeleine McCann, to handle its corporate communications during the crisis.

Belfast Telegraph