Costa Concordia Captain's Papers Discovered By Search Teams Underwater
Divers plumbing the capsized Costa Concordia's murky depths pulled out the body of a woman in a life vest and scuba-diving police retrieved a safe and documents belonging to the man who abandoned the cruise liner gashed by a rocky reef on the Tuscan coast.
Hoping for a miracle - or at least for the recovery of bodies from the ship that has become an underwater tomb - relatives of some of the 20 missing appealed to survivors of the January 13 shipwreck to offer details that could help divers reach loved ones while it was still possible to search the luxury liner.
The clock is ticking because the craft is perched precariously on a rocky ledge of seabed near Giglio, part of a seven-island archipelago.
"We are asking the 4,000 persons who were on board to give any information they can about any of the persons still missing," said Alain Litzler, a Frenchman who is the father of missing passenger Mylene Litzler.
"We need precise information to help the search and rescue teams find them."
Early today, instruments monitoring any movement of the Concordia indicated that vessel had shifted slightly and search efforts were suspended for the night, Italian state radio reported.
The death toll rose to at least 12 yesterday after a body was extracted from a passageway near a gathering point for evacuation by lifeboats in the rear of the vessel, coastguard commander Filippo Marini said. It was not immediately clear if the woman was a passenger or crew member.
A Peruvian barmaid and several women passengers were among the 21 people listed as missing before the latest corpse was found.
Relatives of the barmaid and those of an Indian crewman, along with two children of an elderly couple from Minnesota, USA, who are among the missing, boarded a boat to view the wrecked Concordia yesterday.
Family members tossed flowers near the site while islanders standing on the rocky edge of the island also strew bouquets on the water in a tribute to the victims.
Coastguard official Cosimo Nicastro said the woman's body was found during a particularly risky inspection.
"The corridor was very narrow and the divers' lines risked snagging" on furniture and objects floating in the passageway, he said. To help the coastguard divers reach the area, Italian navy divers had preceded them, setting off charges to blast holes for easier entrance and exit.
Meanwhile, police divers, carrying out orders from prosecutors investigating Captain Francesco Schettino for suspected manslaughter and abandoning the ship, swam through the cold, dark waters to reach his cabin.
State TV and Italian news agency ANSA reported that the divers located and remove his safe and two suitcases. His passport and several documents were also pulled out, state media said.
Searchers inspecting the bridge also found a hard disk containing data of the voyage, Sky TG24 TV said.
Three bodies were found in waters around the ship in the first hours after the accident. Since then, divers have gone inside the Concordia to recover all the remaining victims, who were apparently unable to escape the lurching ship during a chaotic evacuation launched almost an hour after the liner hit a reef.
Some survivors who could not board lifeboats waited for hours aboard the capsizing craft for rescue by helicopters while others jumped into the water and swam to safety.
The last survivor, found aboard 36 hours after the crash, was an Italian crewman who broke his leg in the confusion.
The Concordia hit the reef, well-marked on maritime and even tourist maps, while most of the passengers sat down to dinner in the main restaurant, about two hours after the ship had set sail from the port of Civitavecchia on the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Costa Crociere, the ship's operator and subsidiary of US-based Carnival Cruise Lines, has said the captain had deviated without permission from the vessel's route in an apparent manoeuvre to sail close to the island of Giglio and impress passengers.
Schettino, despite audiotapes of his defying coastguard orders to scramble back aboard, has denied he abandoned ship while hundreds of passengers were desperately trying to get off the capsizing vessel. He said he co-ordinated the rescue from aboard a lifeboat and then from the shore.
The effort to find survivors and bodies has postponed an operation to remove heavy fuel in the Concordia's tanks. Specialised equipment has been standing by for days.
Light fuel, apparently from machinery aboard the capsized ship, was spotted in nearby waters, authorities said yesterday.
But Mr Nicastro said there was no indication that any of the nearly 500,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil has leaked from the ship's double-bottomed tanks, seen as a risk if the ship's position changed.
He said the leaked substance appeared to be diesel used to fuel rescue boats and dinghies and as a lubricant for ship machinery.