Five more bodies found in Costa shipwreck

Five more bodies found in Costa shipwreck

Search crews in Italy have found five more bodies in the wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, which struck a reef off an island in January.

Today’s development raises to 30 the number of bodies found. Two people are still missing and are presumed dead.

The Italian Civil Protection agency co-ordinating search operations said the bodies were all found in spaces between the hull and the seabed off the Tuscan island of Giglio.

Since the January 13 capsizing, the Concordia has been lying on its side, half-submerged in water near Giglio’s port.

It was not clear when the bodies would be removed and no details were given about the victims found today.

Earlier, Franco Gabrielli, the official co-ordinating the search and salvage efforts, told reporters on the island that the bodies were spotted when divers were working to set up a robotic device to search otherwise inaccessible parts of the wreck.

The bodies were seen “in the spaces between the hull and the seabed”, he said. He added that it would take several days of work for the bodies to be removed.

All of the other bodies found before today had been inside the ship, except for three found in the sea near the ship in the first hours after the Concordia capsized.

The ship hit a rocky reef, took on water and turned over just outside Giglio’s port on January 13.

Since then, divers and searchers have been combing the half-submerged ship, from passenger cabins to lifts to the decks where many of the 4,200 passengers and crew gathered during the delayed and frantic evacuation. Many jumped into the sea when lifeboats were unable to be launched because of the ship’s tilt.

Even before the latest bodies were found, eight removed in recent weeks were awaiting official identification. Weeks in the water badly decomposed the remains, and forensic authorities have used DNA sampling to try to identify them.

A crew member from India and several passengers, including an elderly US couple and others from Italy and Germany, are among those listed as missing or unidentified.

The Concordia capsized in a protected sea sanctuary, and salvage teams have been removing fuel since February 12 in hopes of sparing the pristine waters from pollution.

Costa Crociere, the Italian cruise company, and Italian officials said fuel removal was expected to be completed by tomorrow evening.

Occasional bad weather and choppy seas have at times forced suspension of both the search for bodies and the fuel removal.

The operation to remove the wrecked Concordia itself could take as long as 12 months. Bids for the job are being evaluated.

The Concordia’s Italian captain is under house arrest near Naples.

Captain Francesco Schettino is under investigation for alleged manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship during the evacuation. He has denied wrongdoing and claimed that the reef was not marked on charts.

Investigators are probing allegations that Schettino deliberately went too close to the island. Costa Crociere officials have distanced themselves from him.

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