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Friday 24 November 2017

Inside disaster cruise ship

GRIM: Hopes fade for missing 29 as stricken vessel shifts and forces divers to abandon hunt

This is one of the first pictures from inside the stricken cruise ship the Costa Concordia.

Divers were forced to abandon an increasingly despairing hunt for survivors as authorities almost doubled their estimate of the number missing to 29 people.

The half-submerged cruise liner shifted on its rocky resting place as weather conditions worsened.

Yesterday the giant ship also threatened to plunge 2,300 tonnes of fuel below the Mediterranean waters of the surrounding nature reserve.

The ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, 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.

However, Capt Schettino insisted in an interview before his jailing that he stayed with the vessel to the end.

He was arrested a day after the disaster and was due to appear before magistrates for questioning today.

The Costa Concordia's owners earlier accused Capt Schettino of veering too close to shore in a bravura "salute" to residents of a Tuscan island.



Chaos

The latest slippage forced rescuers to suspend efforts to find anyone still alive after three days in the capsized hull, resting on a jagged slope outside the picturesque harbour on the island of Giglio. Six bodies have been found.

Most of the 4,200 passengers and crew survived, despite hours of chaos.

Fears are growing for the 29 people still missing, four days after the vessel crashed. The Italian coastguard said 25 passengers and four crew members remained unaccounted for.

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 said the only hope was that bubbles of air had formed within the ship after it hit the rocks.

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.

The 114,500-tonne ship, one of the biggest passenger vessels ever to be wrecked, foundered after striking a rock just as dinner was being served on Friday night. It quickly rolled on its side, revealing a long gouge below the waterline.

Firefighters' spokesman Luca Cari said there were still small movements of the vessel but they were not considered dangerous.

However, searches were suspended overnight and would resume at daybreak.

Another senior firefighter, Luciano Roncalli said that all the unsubmerged areas of the liner had been searched, indicating faint hopes of finding more survivors in the flooded and upturned maze of luxurious state rooms and tennis courts, bars and spas that are now submerged beneath the sea.







Manslaughter

Investigators say the ship was far too close to the shore and its owners, Costa Cruises, said the captain had carried out the rash manoeuvre to "make a bow" to people on Giglio island, who included a retired Italian admiral.

Capt Schettino denies charges of manslaughter.

His lawyer issued a statement saying the skipper was "broken-up, troubled and saddened by the loss of life".

But he believed he had saved many lives by carrying out a difficult emergency manoeuvre with anchors after the accident, which turned the ship closer to the shore.

The father of the ship's head waiter said his son had telephoned him before the accident to say the crew would salute him by blowing the ship's whistle as they passed close by Giglio, where both the waiter, Antonello Tievoli, and his 82-year-old father Giuseppe live.

Carnival Corp, the ship's Miami-based parent company, said it estimated the impact on its 2012 earnings for loss of use alone to be around ¤70m.

hnews@herald.ie

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