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Explosions used in hunt for 29 missing on Italian liner

GIGLIO, Italy (Reuters) – Rescue squads used controlled explosions on Tuesday to enter a stricken Italian cruise liner in the increasingly despairing hunt for survivors as authorities almost doubled their estimate of the number missing on the huge vessel to 29 people.

The Costa Concordia’s owners accused their captain of causing Friday’s disaster by veering the ship too close to shore, where it hit a rock, in a bravura “salute” to residents of a Tuscan island off Italy’s Mediterranean coast.

Captain Francesco Schettino was arrested on Saturday accused of manslaughter and abandoning the ship before all people were evacuated, and he was due to appear before magistrates for questioning on Tuesday morning.

Prosecutors say Schettino also refused to go back on board when requested by the coastguard.

The three explosions were carried out early on Tuesday morning to allow firefighters and scuba divers to enter and leave parts of the ship that they had not yet been able to search.

“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.

The giant cruise liner slid a little on Monday, threatening to plunge 2,300 tonnes of fuel below the Mediterranean waters of the surrounding nature reserve.

The slippage forced rescuers to suspend efforts to find anyone still alive after three days in the capsized hull, resting on a jagged slope outside the picturesque harbor on the island of Giglio. Six bodies have been found. Most of the 4,200 passengers and crew survived, despite hours of chaos.

An Italian coastguard official told Reuters late on Monday that the number of people missing had been revised up to 29 – 25 passengers and four members of staff – from 16, showing how much uncertainty still surrounded the disaster.

Another maritime official said later that 10 Germans were thought to be among the missing passengers.

The 114,500-tonne ship, one of the biggest passenger vessels ever to be wrecked, foundered after striking a rock just as dinner was being served on Friday night. It quickly rolled on its side, revealing a long gouge below the waterline.

Cari said there were still small movements of the vessel but they were not considered dangerous. Searches were suspended overnight before resuming on Tuesday morning.

Another senior firefighter, Luciano Roncalli, told Reuters that all the unsubmerged areas of the liner had been searched, indicating there was faint hope of finding more survivors in the flooded and upturned maze of luxurious state rooms and tennis courts, bars and spas now submerged beneath the sea.

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 on Italian television on Monday evening.

Clini said on Tuesday morning 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.

Should rougher seas dislodge the wreck and cause it to sink or break up, that could scupper any hopes for the owners, a unit of Florida’s Carnival Corp., of salvaging a liner which cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build just six years ago.

Source: Reuters

Category: World News |

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Last updated October 21, 2016 at 11:57 PM
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