Tuesday 21 November 2017

Hero musician among missing in cruise tragedy

PERIL: Rescue divers called back as stricken ship slips on the rocks

THE search for the 21 people still missing in the Costa Concordia disaster has ground to a halt after the cruise liner shifted again on its rocky perch off the Tuscan island of Giglio, making it too dangerous for divers to continue.

Among those still unaccounted for are an Italian father and his five-year-old daughter, a retired American couple and a Hungarian musician who helped crying children into lifejackets, then disappeared while trying to retrieve his beloved violin from his cabin.

Rough seas have been forecast for the next few days, postponing the search and the start of the week-long operation to extract the half-million gallons of fuel on board the vessel.

Italy's environment minister Corrado Clini today of an environmental catastrophe in the waters around Giglio, a sanctuary for marine mammals, if the ship sinks.

Rescue operations were suspended early yesterday after instruments attached to the ship detected it had shifted, raising concerns for the safety of rescuers. It was unclear when the search would resume.


The $450m liner was carrying more than 4,200 passengers and crew when it slammed into a reef and capsized on Friday after the captain made an unauthorised diversion from his programmed route and strayed into the perilous waters.

Eleven people have been confirmed dead so far, and 21 are missing. Italian officials have only released 27 names so far, including two Americans, 12 Germans, six Italians, four French, and one person each from Hungary, India and Peru.

The Hungarian victim was identified Wednesday as Sandor Feher (38), who had been working as an entertainer on the stricken cruise ship. His body was found inside the wreck and identified by his mother, who had travelled to the Italian city of Grosseto.

Jozsef Balog, a pianist who worked with Feher on the ship, said that Feher was wearing a lifejacket when he decided to return to his cabin to retrieve his violin. Feher was last seen on deck en route to the area where he was supposed to board a lifeboat.

According to Balog, Feher helped put lifejackets on several crying children before returning to his cabin.

Others among the missing include five-year-old Dayana Arlotti and her father, William Arlotti, who were on the cruise with his girlfriend. The girl's parents separated three years ago.

The girl's mother, Susy Albertini, said she has been desperately calling police, port officials and the cruise company for days for news of her daughter and estranged husband.

"I last heard from her on Thursday," when she waved goodbye at school, Ms Albertini, (28) said.

Mr Arlotti's girlfriend Michela Marconcelli, who survived, reported seeing Dayana, who was wearing a lifejacket, slide into the water when the boat shifted, but said someone helped retrieve her.

Others missing include US retirees Jerry and Barbara Heil of White Bear Lake, Minn.

Their daughter Sarah Heil said that her parents had been looking forward to the 16-day cruise after raising four children and sending them all off to college.

"They never had any money," she said. "So when they retired, they went travelling. And this was to be a big deal -- a 16-day trip. They were really excited about it."

A US congressional committee announced yesterday that it will hold a hearing next month on the safety implications of the accident, saying US and international maritime organisations need to ensure standards are in place to protect passengers' safety.

Passengers have complained vocally about the chaotic evacuation and poor treatment by Costa officials once they got on land, with some saying they were provided only a single night of hotel accommodations and denied help getting to their embassies to get new passports.


Costa owner, Miami-based Carnival Corp, responded by saying it was offering assistance and counselling to passengers and crew and was trying to take stock of lost possessions.

"Costa has also begun the process of refunding all voyage costs including both passenger cruise fares and all costs incurred while on board," Carnival said in a statement.

The ship's captain Francesco Schettino was questioned by a judge for three hours on Tuesday, then ordered to be held under house arrest rather than jailed -- a decision that federal prosecutors plan to challenge.


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