Costa Concordia Disaster: two more bodies pulled from ship as oil extraction begins
THE DEATH toll from the Costa Concordia disaster has risen to 15, with the discovery of two more bodies, both believed to be women.
Salvage workers have finally been given the go-ahead to start extracting the half a million gallons of oil inside the crippled Costa Concordia cruise ship, with the operation expected to start on Tuesday.
The luxury liner, which smashed into rocks and ran aground on the Tuscan island of Giglio on Jan 13, is stable and there is no risk for now that it will become dislodged by rough seas and pitched deeper into the sea, officials said.
Franco Gabrielli, who is in charge of the massive search and salvage operation, said a scientific committee had determined that it is possible to continue searching for bodies while at the same time starting the fuel extraction operation.
Rough seas and strong waves are expected on Tuesday, which could hinder the start of the fuel removal effort.
There are fears that any oil leakage would devastate Giglio's crystal clear waters and marine life.
The 2,400 tonnes of heavy oil and diesel are to be pumped out by a Dutch salvage firm, Smit, which has extensive experience of working on such wrecks.
Mr Gabrielli, the head of Italy's respected Civil Protection Authority, said the number of missing could be as high as 24 or 25.
They include Americans, French, Italians, a Peruvian and an Indian.
Ennio Aquilino, a spokesman for the Italian fire service, said his men faced increasingly unsanitary conditions as they searched the parts of the ship which remain above water.
The huge amounts of food that the vessel was carrying – it was at the start of a week-long Mediterranean cruise and had on board more than 4,000 passengers and crew – was rotting and creating a terrible smell.
Mr Aquilino likened the situation to going on holiday and turning off a fridge full of food, only on a giant scale.