Two more bodies found on Italy ship, 3 rescued

Death toll rises to five, confusion about number of missing; South Korean honeymooners and crewmember saved.

By REUTERS
January 15, 2012 20:28
3 minute read.
Capsized Costa Concordia cruise ship

Capsized Costa Concordia cruise ship 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/ Max Rossi)

GIGLIO, Italy - Divers found the bodies of two elderly men inside a capsized cruiseliner on Sunday, bringing the known death toll from a spectacular accident off Italy's coast to five, with another 70 people injured.

Divers and other rescuers were painstakingly checking thousands of cabins on the Italian liner Costa Concordia for 15 people still unaccounted for after the huge vessel foundered and keeled over with more 4,229 passengers and crew on board.

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A day after the disaster, rescuers plucked a South Korean honeymoon couple and an injured crewmember alive from the wreck, lying on its side close to the beautiful island of Giglio off Italy's west coast, after being holed by a rock on Friday night.

The captain of the luxury 114,500-tonne ship, Francesco Schettino, was arrested on charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship, Italian police said.

Searching the vast ship for survivors was like combing through a small town - but one tilted on its side, largely in darkness and partly submerged.

In the early afternoon, scuba divers looking for survivors instead found the bodies of two men at a gathering point in the submerged part of the ship, coastguard officials said.

The bodies of two French tourists and a Peruvian crew member were found on Saturday.

The discovery of the bodies on Sunday dampened earlier euphoria when a helicopter lifted off injured chief purser Manrico Gianpetroni, hours after rescuers made voice contact with him deep inside the stricken, multi-story vessel.

Gianpetroni, who had a broken leg, was winched up from the ship on a stretcher and taken to hospital.

"I never lost hope of being saved. It was a 36-hour nightmare," he told reporters.

In the early hours of Sunday rescuers pulled out the two South Koreans from a cabin, after locating them from several decks above. They looked dazed but unharmed as they were brought ashore.

By Sunday afternoon, about a quarter of the part of the ship that is still above the waterline had been searched. "This is a floating city and it's very difficult," said Luca Cari, spokesman for firefighters on Giglio.

Passengers compared the disaster to the sinking of the Titanic, and described people leaping into the sea and fighting over lifejackets in panic when the ship hit a rock and ran aground as they sat down for dinner on Friday night.

The vast hulk of the 290-meter-long ship loomed over the little port of Giglio, a picturesque island in a maritime nature reserve off the Tuscan coast. A large gash was visible in its side.

Rescue workers including specialist diving teams faced a complex task as they worked their way through more than 2,000 cabins on the ship - a floating resort that boasted a huge spa, seven restaurants, bars, cinemas and discotheques.

Paolo Tronca, a local fire department official, said the search would go on "for 24 hours a day as long as we have to" and that rescue workers were using sniffer dogs in the section of the ship above water.

As the search continued, there were demands for explanations of why the vessel had come so close to the shore and bitter complaints about how long it took to evacuate the terrified passengers.

State prosecutor Francesco Verusio said investigations might go beyond the captain.

"We are investigating the possible responsibility of other people for such a dangerous manoeuvre," he told SkyTG24 television. "The command systems did not function as they should have."

He said the ship had come within 150 metres (yards) of the coast, which he called "incredibly close".

Agnese Stella, a 72-year-old housewife who has lived on Giglio for 50 years told Reuters: "It came much too close (to shore), it never comes this close normally."


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