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Human remains seen near Concordia

Divers have spotted human remains near the shipwrecked Costa Concordia off an Italian island, with authorities saying DNA tests will determine if they are those of two victims whose bodies were never found.

The search for the last of the 32 dead resumed after the capsized cruise liner was rotated upward last week in a salvage operation 20 months after the Concordia crashed into a reef off Giglio Island on January 13, 2012.

Civil Protection chief Franco Gabrielli told reporters on Giglio that relatives of the two victims - a female Italian passenger and a male Indian waiter - were notified after divers saw remains on Thursday morning.

The remains were spotted in the sea near the central part of the ship, where survivors had said the two were last seen.

Specialised police divers were going into the sea to remove the remains, which will be examined by forensic experts on the mainland in Tuscany. DNA testing could take a few days, authorities said.

The side of the ship where the remains were found is badly smashed in after lying submerged since it capsized.

Experts plan to go inside the ship, retrieve some of the Concordia's computers and try to determine why backup generators and some other equipment failed to work immediately after the collision.

The Concordia's captain, Francesco Schettino, is on trial for alleged manslaughter, causing the shipwreck and abandoning ship during a confused and delayed evacuation. Prosecutors contend he deliberately went off the route, bringing the ship too close to Giglio's rocky coastline at night. The captain, who risks 20 years in prison, contends that the reef was not on the ship's nautical charts.

In separate proceedings, five other employees of the Italian cruise company, Costa Concordia SpA, were allowed to make plea bargains in exchange for lenient sentences. But a Florence prosecutor this week challenged those sentences, and Italy's highest criminal court will eventually rule on that.

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