May 22, 2013
Divers uncover 5 more dead on Costa Concordia liner
Divers found five more bodies in the half-submerged wreck of the Costa Concordia today, while recordings released today showed that Italian coastguards pleaded angrily with the captain of a stricken super-liner to return to his ship.
Taking the known death toll to 11, that left 24 people, including a number of German tourists, unaccounted for four days after the giant cruiser carrying 4,200 passengers and crew was ripped open by rocks off a Tuscan island.
Captain Francesco Schettino is in jail, blamed by his employer for risking thousands of lives and half a billion dollars of ship in a reckless display of bravado.
Today at the scene, rescuers used explosives to blast through the watery maze of luxury cabins, bars and spas, fast losing hope of finding anyone alive. Before the five bodies were found, those missing were 14 German, five Italian, four French and two American passengers and four crew from Italy, Peru, India and Hungary.
Schettino is accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck by sailing too close to shore and abandoning ship before all his panicking passengers and frantic crew managed to scramble off.
Newspaper Corriere della Sera released what it said was a recording of ship-to-shore radio communications in which the enraged coastguards repeatedly order him back on board.
"Listen Schettino, perhaps you have saved yourself from the sea, but I will make you look very bad. I will make you pay for this. Dammit, go back on board!" one coastguard says.
Officials did not confirm the tape's origins but Corriere has good sources. Other shouts heard in the background added authenticity. Schettino's lawyer said he would not comment.
The owners of the 114,500-tonne vessel - by some measures the biggest passenger ship ever wrecked - accused their captain of causing the disaster by sharply deviating from the charted course. Investigators say he was within 150 metres of the shore.
He has denied the charges and was questioned by magistrates this morning.
Aside from direct losses for Miami-based Carnival Corp, which controls the ship's operator Costa Cruises, bad publicity generated by images of the liner lying on its side in shallow water risks hurting the global market for luxury cruising and the credibility of claims for high-tech safety measures.
Three controlled blasts were detonated today to allow firefighters and scuba divers to enter inaccessible parts of the ship.
"Now we will have better access to the gathering points on the ship, where it seems there might be more chance of finding someone, dead or alive," said firefighters' spokesman Luca Cari.
"They will take micro-cameras in there, and we will be simultaneously looking at the few remaining dry areas and also the wet areas," he said. The weather improved slightly from Monday but seas were still choppy.
Hopes of finding more survivors are fast fading, more than three days after the 290-metre long ship rolled on its side with a long gash in its hull. The four missing crew are from Italy, Peru, India and Hungary. More than 1,000 employees on board included many catering staff and entertainers as well as seamen.
Most of the passengers and crew survived despite hours of chaos and confusion after the collision. The alarm was raised not by an SOS from the ship but mobile phone calls from passengers on board to Italian police on the mainland.
The ship foundered after striking a rock just as dinner was being served on Friday night. The owners have said the captain swung inshore to "make a bow" to the islanders, who included a retired Italian admiral.
Environment Minister Corrado Clini said he would declare a state of emergency because of the risk that the ship's fuel would leak into the pristine Tuscan Archipelago National Park. No fuel spillage has been detected so far, he said.
Clini said on Tuesday morning that he had given the salvage company until Wednesday to come up with a plan to remove the fuel and 10 days with a plan to remove the ship.