Search for cruise ship bodies partly halted

Wed, Feb 1, 2012, 00:00

WITH BAD weather having finally hit the Italian island of Giglio, the search for the bodies of the 15 people still believed missing from the shipwreck of the Costa Concordia cruise liner was partly abandoned yesterday. While rescue workers will continue to search that part of the ship above water, it was decided that conditions in the submerged section are too dangerous to continue diving.

Emergency commissioner Franco Gabrielli, the man in charge of the rescue and clean-up operation, informed relatives of those missing of the partial halt but he said the search is ongoing in an 18sq km area. Thus far, 17 bodies have been recovered from the ship.

In the meantime, the future of the vessel continues to cause concern. For a start, in the face of the worsening weather, the operation to empty the ship’s estimated 2,300 tonnes of fuel, originally intended to start last weekend, has not yet begun. The prospect of a stormy sea over the next fortnight would suggest this operation will run far over its original four-week estimate.

Of equal concern is the consideration that it may take up to 10 months before the wreck can be moved from its position, stuck on its side on a 30m ledge at the entrance to the port of Giglio.

Speaking to the media earlier this week, Mr Gabrielli said the removal of the wreck would be put out to public tender. The few companies with the capacity to attempt such a recovery will then have two months in which to submit their proposals. After that, allowing for bad weather, it could take a further seven to 10 months to remove the wreck, he said.

Many maritime experts believe the most likely removal process will involve the demolition or breaking up of the 1,000ft-long ship at its current site.