Divers find five bodies in 'groaning' hull
Published 18/01/2012 | 05:00
ITALIAN navy divers found another five bodies after blasting holes in the hull of the Costa Concordia, bringing the death toll to 11.
The bodies of four men and one woman, all believed to be in their fifties or sixties, were found towards the stern of the "ghost ship" after navy specialists in rubber dinghies used five explosive charges to rip open the gaps.
The victims, who were wearing life jackets and were thought to be passengers, were found below the water line near a mustering station at the rear of the 1,000ft-long liner.
Before the discovery, officials had raised the number of missing to 25 passengers and four crew: 14 Germans, six Italians, four French, two Americans, one Hungarian, one Indian and one Peruvian.
Salvage experts want the vessel searched so they can start pumping half a million gallons of fuel from the ship and avert an environmental disaster.
The area above the water line has been searched but divers and cave rescue experts are struggling with horrendous conditions as they venture into the belly of the 114,000-tonne ship.
Visibility is about three feet, even with a torch. Rodolfo Raiteri, head of a coast guard diving team, said conditions were "disastrous". Divers have described how they hear the ship "groan" as it shifts position and work under the fear of it being dislodged by choppy seas.
Hope is fading for survivors in air pockets in the ship, which is now at an angle of nearly 90 degrees.
The missing passengers and crew are aged from five to 71. Among the missing are 30-year-old Maria D'Introno, a bride on her honeymoon, whose husband Vincenzo Rosselli described the moment he realised he had lost her.
"We all had life jackets but Maria couldn't swim and she was scared of the water."
The family, from Turin, who were also celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary, must now wait for news.
The father of a Peruvian tourism student, Erika Soria (26), who was working on the ship, appealed to rescue workers. Saturnino Soria told a television station: "She has to be found, dead or alive. The pain of not knowing what's happened to her is killing us." (© Daily Telegraph, London)