19/01/2012 15:48 GMT | Updated 20/03/2012 05:12 GMT

Costa Concordia: Audio Tape Suggests Crew Refused Port's Offer Of Help

A crew-member on the stricken Costa Concordia cruise liner reportedly refused offers of help after the crash according to an audio tape broadcast by the Italian media.

The vessel ran aground off the Tuscan coast on 13 January with 4,200 people on board. At least 11 have died and some 21 are still missing.

Some 700 people are involved in the recovery operation but hopes of finding anyone alive have been growing slimmer by the hour.

The local police force at Grosseto said it was possible that not all those missing were still at sea, however.

Even as rescue efforts continue, the head of the firefighters' diving team has warned that there is now "a 12- to 24-hour window to complete operations".

The fear is that worsening weather will dislodge the ship from the rocks and sink it entirely.

Meanwhile new evidence has emerged that the crew of the Concordia did not respond immediately to the severity of the situation on board.

In a new audio tape, broadcast by Sky TG 24 and said to be the first phone conversation between port officials and the ship's crew, an officer can be heard claiming they have suffered only a "blackout".

The ship was already taking on water as the phone call was made, reports have said.

The passengers had already been made to put on their life jackets but that was not confirmed by the unidentified voice coming from the cruise liner on the tape.

"Do you have problems on board?" asked the port, according to the BBC.

"Yes, affirmative we have a blackout on board, we are checking the situation," the crew member relies.

"Do you need help or are you staying in the Giglio area?" the official asks in response.

"Confirmed. We remain here in the area to check the blackout," the crew member said.

Costa Cruises, the company that owns the stricken liner, have said that the captain, Francisco Schettino, sailed the ship too close to a nearby island and was on an "unathorised" course.

The captain is currently under house arrest on suspicion of manslaughter.

The captain has also reportedly said that the crew was sailing too close to the island because they wanted to "salute" a former colleague.

It has also been revealed that the captain was with a mystery blonde woman when his ship ran aground off an Italian island, killing at least 11, it emerged today.

In a previous audio tape the captain can be heard being ordered to go back to the sinking ship after apparently leaving before the rescue effort was completed.

Italians are venting spleen against Schettino with T-shirts, Facebook pages and Twitter hashtags urging him to "Get Back On Board, For F****'s Sake".

Costa Cruises have also confirmed it is contacting all surviving guests to make sure they have returned home safely and to offer a refund for the cruise and all expenses relating to it.

A statement from the company said: "Costa Crociere also reiterates that it is in contact with its guests and all consumer protection associations to determine indemnity for the hardship endured, with the support of the tour operator association of each country.

"Costa Cruises confirms both the constant commitment and care it devotes every day to safety and its dedication to relations with the guests who represent the company's most important asset, as they have done for more than 60 years.

"Costa Cruises would like once again to express its great sadness over the victims and its support for their families."

Questions have been raised about why the safety briefing, which would have informed passengers how to respond in an emergency, was not due to happen until the Saturday, after the ship was wrecked.