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Costa Concordia: Passengers Could Seek 1m Euros In Damages Each In Class Action Lawsuit

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More than 100 passengers of the stricken cruise liner that crashed off the Tuscan coast last week are to sue the owners of the ship.

The 114,500 ton ship crashed on rocks off the island of the island of Giglio on Friday 13 January.

At least 11 people died in the disaster and some 21 are still missing.

Costa Cruises is owned by an American-based company, Carnival Group. The class action suit will see survivors seeking more than £100,000 each, it has been reported.

At least one British passenger is also attempting to sue after losing her husband's ashes in the disaster.

The BBC said that papers will be lodged in a Miami court next week by two law firms based in the US, who are working with the Italian consumers group Codacons.

Some of the passengers could seek up to €1m, said Mitchell Proner, a lawyer with one of the firms involved in the class action, Proner & Proner.

Comparing the disaster to the Titanic in an interview with the BBC, he said:

"At the time of the Titanic it might have been easy to say that radars didn't exist. Nowadays, with all the technology, it isn't. There had to be a failure in the system that allowed this to happen."

Costa Cruises has blamed the ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, for the disaster. According to reports he attempted to hide the severity of the situation from his crew and company bosses.

Sky News sources reported that the captain of the ship reportedly told the ship's owners that he had "messed up" after the crash.

Accoding to the Press Association, chief executive Pierluigi Foschi told Italian state TV that the company spoke to the captain at 10.05pm, some 20 minutes after the ship ran aground, but could not offer proper assistance because the captain's description "did not correspond to the truth".

Captain Schettino said only that he had "problems" on board but did not mention hitting a reef. Foschi also said crew members were not informed of the gravity of the situation.

Currently suspended in 20 metres of water, the divers and rescuers are still searching for survivors on the Costa Concordia.

Fears grow for the Costa Concordia itself, as the massive ship threatens to shift from the rocky outcrop where it ran aground.

Italians have continued to make emotional appeals for rescuers to continue searching for the 21 missing passengers one week since the cruise ship ran aground close to the Italian island of Giglio.

On Saturday morning the Italian navy blew new holes into the side of the ship to search previously unexplored parts of the vessel under the water line.

Members of the public have been making heartfelt pleas on social network sites and on national TV, mostly focusing on the plight of five-year-old Italian girl Dayana Arlotti who is missing with her father William Arlotti.

Only after the search has been called off can salvage crews begin pumping some of the 2,300 tonnes of fuel out of the vessel. If the ship slides and the fuel tanks are wrenched open it could cause a major environmental disaster.

There were also unconfirmed reports on Saturday that light fuel is already leaking into the sea.

It is expected to take at least two weeks to pump the oil out of the ship's 17 tanks. If it slides off the rocky shelf it could sink many more metres, which will not only make the operation more difficult but will threaten marine life in the clear waters surrounding the island.

The sea around the Tuscan archipelagoes is renowned for its dolphins, coral and sea life.

Earlier a video emerged which appeared to show the crew telling passengers standing scared in life jackets that everything was fine and to go back to their cabins.

The woman says in Italian:

"We would like to make an announcement in the name of your Captain. We kindly ask you to return to your cabins, or if you wish, to stay around the lounge area.

"As soon as we will be done fixing the problem we have with the electric generator, everything will go back to normal. If you wish to stay here, it's ok, but I am asking you to return to your cabins and remain calm and seated.

"It's all under control."

The Captain and the crew aboard the Costa Concordia have been criticised for not beginning an evacuation of the ship sooner. It is difficult to ascertain whether it was wise advice telling passengers to go further into the depths of the ship, when water had already begun leaking into the boat.

British Expat Sandra Rodgers, who is to begin legal action against the cruise liner company Costa Cruises said "Thank God we didn't do as they had told us as we may not have made it off the ship alive."

Criticism has also been levelled at the company after audio between port authorities and the Costa Concordia reveals that crew said they were facing a "blackout." At the time of the recording, the cruise liner had already crashed into the rocks, and had begun to take on water.

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