Rome: Rescuers raced against time and increasingly turbulent waters on Monday in search of survivors from the capsized Costa Concordia cruise ship off the Tuscan coast, while prosecutors focused on the captain, who is accused of abandoning the ship well before passengers were safely evacuated. (Agencies)
A sixth body was discovered in the overturned vessel as the rescue mission entered its third day; 16 passengers and crew were still missing after the ship carrying 4,200 struck a reef off the island of Giglio.
The body of the male passenger was spotted in a corridor of the part of the Costa Concordia still above water, fire department spokesman Luca Cari said. The victim was wearing a life vest. "We are still working to pull the body out of the ship," Cari said. "The sea conditions make it difficult to get into the ship."
The number of the missing was raised after relatives of two Sicilian women who had been listed among those safely evacuated after Friday night's grounding told authorities they not heard from them.
Giglio Mayor Sergio Ortelli said rescuers were in "one of the most important phases" as they sought those who may have found an air pocket. The mission includes a risky inspection of the underwater half of the capsized ship. But, he conceded to Sky News 24, the chances of finding survivors were dwindling.
Rising turbulence led to concerns on Monday that the ship -- which has on board some 2,500 tonnes of fuel -- could become unstable, creating the threat of a possible environmental disaster on top of the human loss. No leaks into the pristine waters have been reported so far, and a Dutch firm has been called in to help extract the fuel.
"The environmental risk for the island of Giglio is extremely high," said Environment Minister Corrado Clini said, according to the news agency ANSA. "The goal is to avoid that the fuel leaks from the ship. We are working on this. The intervention is urgent."
On Sunday, divers found the bodies of two elderly men. Three other bodies were found in the hours after the accident. Still, there were glimmers of hope: The rescue of three survivors -- a young South Korean couple on their honeymoon and a crew member brought to shore in a dramatic airlift some 36 hours after the grounding late Friday.
Meanwhile, attention focused on the captain, who was spotted by Coast Guard officials and passengers fleeing the scene even as the chaotic and terrifying evacuation was under way.
The ship's Italian owner, a subsidiary of Carnival Cruise lines, issued a statement on Sunday saying there appeared to be "significant human error" on the part of the captain, Francesco Schettino, "which resulted in these grave consequences."
"The route of the vessel appears to have been too close to the shore, and the captain's judgment in handling the emergency appears to have not followed standard Costa procedures," Costa said in a statement.
Carnival PLC, the owner of the capsized boat, saw its share price plummet by around a fifth.
"At this time, our priority is the safety of our passengers and crew," Carnival CEO Micky Arison said in a statement. "We are deeply saddened by this tragic event and our hearts go out to everyone affected by the grounding of the Costa Concordia and especially to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives."
Authorities were holding Schettino for suspected manslaughter and a prosecutor confirmed on Sunday they were also investigating allegations the captain abandoned the stricken liner before all the passengers had escaped.
According to the Italian navigation code, a captain who abandons a ship in danger can face up to 12 years in prison. Schettino insisted he didn't leave the liner early, telling Mediaset television that he had done everything he could to save lives. "We were the last ones to leave the ship," he said.
Questions also swirled about why the ship had navigated so close to the dangerous reefs and rocks that jut off Giglio's eastern coast, amid suspicions the captain may have ventured too close while carrying out a maneuver to entertain tourists on the island.
Rome: Rescuers raced against time and increasingly turbulent waters on Monday in search of survivors from the capsized Costa Concordia cruise ship off the Tuscan coast, while prosecutors focused on the captain, who is accused of abandoning the ship well before passengers were safely evacuated.