Coast guard raises number of missing from cruise ship
Published Monday, January 16, 2012 10:47PM EST Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 7:10AM EDT
The Italian coast guard raised the number of people missing from a capsized Italian cruise ship to 29, nearly doubling the figure authorities had said remained unaccounted for.
Marco Brusco, a top official with the Italian coast guard, told state television that 25 passengers and four crew members are still missing from the Costa Concordia, which ran aground off the Tuscan coast late Friday.
Brusco did not explain how the figure jumped from 16 missing, the figure provided earlier Monday. He said he has a "glimmer of hope" that some survivors may yet be found.
According to Bruno, about 10 Germans are among those still missing.
The news comes after divers pulled a sixth body from the wreckage, and the company that owns the vessel accused the captain of deviating from course without approval.
Pier Luigi Foschi, CEO of Costa Crociere, the company that owns the Costa Concordia luxury cruise liner, said the captain made an unauthorized deviation from the programmed course, a "human error" that caused the ship to hit rocks near the port area of Giglio and capsize late Friday.
A frantic evacuation of the 4,200 people on board ensued as the ship filled with water, tipping over. At least six people died in the incident.
The 12 Canadians on board are all reported safe, and on Monday night, a Calgary couple who swam to shore returned home to a frigid Prairie winter.
Friends and family were on hand to greet Laurence and Andrea Davis, who said that they were having dinner when they felt the ship lurch.
"I just saw water starting to cover my shoes and I just looked at Andrea and I said this is it -- we've gotta swim or we're going to die," Laurence, 60, said at the airport.
"So we just jumped into the water and we just carried on swimming."
The couple made it to shore, but they had to scramble onto dry land over some tough terrain.
"It just feels like a second chance in life," he said. "It's just wonderful to see everybody, the support. The Canadian embassy in Rome was just fantastic."
Recovery efforts continue
The rescue operation was suspended for several hours Monday due to poor weather. The partially submerged ship is on its side, perched on rocks, and starting to shift slightly. Officials fear a more significant shift could result in a massive fuel leak.
Fire department head Alfio Pini said rescue operations were able to resume and would continue until there was no longer hope of finding anyone alive.
The ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, is under investigation for suspected manslaughter and abandoning ship before ensuring all passengers were evacuated safely.
Coast Guard officials and passengers said they saw Schettino on land while people were still scrambling to get off the ship.
Under the Italian navigation code, a captain who abandons a vessel in danger can face up to 12 years in prison.
A judge is expected to decide Tuesday if Schettino should be charged and if he should remain in custody.
"We are struck by the unscrupulousness of the reckless manoeuvre that the commander of the Costa Concordia made near the island of Giglio," prosecutor Francesco Verusio told reporters. "It was inexcusable."
There have been suspicions Schettino may have ventured too close to shore in an effort to entertain islanders and passengers with a move known as a navigational "fly by."
Residents of Giglio said they had never seen the Concordia, which makes a weekly Mediterranean cruise, come so close to the dangerous reef area near the southern tip of the island.
According to Foschi, the company had previously approved a "fly by" on only one occasion, last August, and the route had been pre-approved.
Media reports suggest that Friday's grounding was the result of a stunt, advertised over Facebook, so the ship's head waiter could wave to his family on shore.
The Telegraph reported that the waiter's sister, Patrizia Tievoli, posted a status update to her Facebook page saying the Concordia would soon be sailing by.
Italian media reports say that Schettino called out to head waiter Antonello Tievolli: "Come and see, Antonello, we're right in front of Giglio."
But rather than a smooth sail past the coastline, the ship hit the rocks.
Italian newspaper reports say Tievolli is wracked with guilt over the incident, although he did not request the "fly by." Tievolli's elderly father said the ship often blew its whistle for residents as it sailed past.
Costa Crociere, which is owned by the world's largest cruiseline, Carnival Corp., said it will stand by Schettino and provide him with legal assistance even though it doesn't approve of his behaviour.
Costa ships have their routes programmed, and alarms go off when they deviate, Foschi, the chief executive, said in a press conference.
"This route was put in correctly. The fact that it left from this course is due solely to a manoeuvre by the commander that was unapproved, unauthorized and unknown to Costa," he said.
Schettino has insisted he didn't abandon the liner, telling Italian television that he had done everything he could to save lives.
Foschi said the liner had passed all safety and technical tests in its 2011 evaluation. Investigators hope the discovery of the ship's black box will give them a better understanding of what went wrong.
Carnival Corp. said it expects to lose at least $85 million to $95 million if the ship remains out of service for the rest of 2012. Other costs could add to that total.
Carnival Corp. shares plummeted 23 per cent at the opening of the London Stock Exchange on Monday. U.S. financial markets are closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
With files from Sonja Puzic and The Associated Press