Divers working on the salvage operation of the Costa Concordia, which crashed off the Italian coast of Giglio in January 2012, have found human remains.
Two people have been unaccounted for since the night the Costa Concordia sank off the Italian shore in a disaster which claimed the lives of 30 other people.
The 951 ft vessel was raised upright last week in a major salvage operation off Giglio island.
Costa Concordia’s Captain Francesco Schettino is on trial over the disaster in January of last year.
Francesco Schettino is accused of manslaughter, causing the shipwreck and abandoning ship, but says he is being made a scapegoat for others’ errors.
“During a search in the water near the central part of the ship, coast guard and police divers found remains which still have to be identified with DNA,” Italy’s civil protection agency said in a statement on Thursday.
Divers working on the salvage operation of the Costa Concordia have found human remains near wreck
The agency’s head, Franco Gabrielli, reaffirmed that further tests were needed but told reporters the remains were “absolutely consistent” with the two missing people, said Reuters news agency.
Recovering the remains after 20 months under the weight of the cruise ship was “almost a miracle,” Franco Gabrielli said.
An Indian waiter, Russel Rebello, and Italian passenger Maria Grazia Trecarichi were reported missing, presumed dead, after the disaster.
It was thought that perhaps they had been trapped beneath the ship and the rocks.
Divers found remains lying just outside the hull on the seabed. They still have not been brought ashore, and the process of running DNA identification tests is yet to begin.
Relatives of the two missing people have been informed of the find.
Costa Concordia salvage will go ahead on Monday, Italian officials have confirmed.
The Civil Protection agency said the sea and weather conditions were right for the salvage attempt.
Engineers have never tried to move such a huge ship so close to land.
Thirty-two people died when the cruise ship hit rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio in January 2012. It has been lying on its side ever since.
Five people have already been convicted of manslaughter over the disaster, and the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, is currently on trial accused of manslaughter and abandoning ship.
The salvage operation is due to begin at 06:00 on Monday, and it is being described as one of the largest and most daunting ever attempted.
Costa Concordia salvage will go ahead on Monday
The head of the operation, Nick Sloane, told AFP news agency that it was now or never for the Costa Concordia, because the hull was gradually weakening and might not survive another winter.
Engineers will try to roll the ship up using cables and the weight of water contained in huge metal boxes welded to the ship’s sides – a process called parbuckling.
This procedure must be done very slowly to prevent further damage to the hull, which has spent more than 18 months partially submerged in 50ft of water and fully exposed to the elements.
More boxes will then be attached to the other side, and the water will be replaced with air to add buoyancy, allowing the vessel to be towed away and broken up for scrap.
If the operation goes wrong, environmentalists warn that toxic substances could leak out into the sea.
For the people of Giglio, the salvage operation will be an important moment – and a special prayer was said during Sunday Mass.
The small island’s economy depends hugely on tourism and the presence of the wreck has discouraged visitors.
The salvage project has so far cost more than 600 million euros ($800 million) and could cost a lot more by the time the operation is complete.
The Italian rescue teams have decided to resume their work aboard the wrecked cruise ship, Costa Concordia, off the coast of Tuscany.
Operations were suspended on Wednesday as Costa Concordia shifted its position. More than 20 people are still missing.
Salvage operators are standing by to start pumping fuel from the ship’s tanks to avoid a potential environmental disaster.
Costa Concordia cruise ship ran aground on Friday with some 4,200 people on board, tourists and crew. At least 11 people were killed.
The bodies of two French victims have been identified by relatives, the French embassy in Rome confirms, AFP news agency reports.
Rescue workers have now almost completed their investigation of the fourth level of the ship.
Earlier, coastguard spokesman Filippo Marini said the ship had been stabilized.
“The tests during the night were positive and we have divers going down now,” Filippo Marini told reporters, AFP news agency says.
“We will then use the micro-explosives to open more holes. They will enter inside the ship and search for more people.”
A specialist team from a Dutch salvage company is preparing to pump more than 2,300 tons of fuel from the ship’s 17 tanks.
Mike Lacey, of the International Salvage Union, says the operation could take some time.
“[The fuel] is spread around 17 tanks. The quantities in each tank will obviously be different, and the people there involved in the operation of removing the oil are experts at this sort of thing – and they know exactly what to do,” Mike Lacey.
“They’ll be drilling into each tank, and pumping the oil out and putting it into a barge or a coastal tanker or even a tug.
“These things are all very weather-dependent. If the weather turns against them, then they won’t be able to work. So I understand they expect to take a week to two weeks to get all the fuel off.”
Costa Concordia cruise ship ran aground on Friday with some 4,200 people on board, tourists and crew
Some 300 Philippine crew members of the Costa Concordia have arrived back in Manila.
They looked visibly shaken by their ordeal.
Some crew members said they did their job well, making sure their passengers were safe, but found the captain and officers had already left the ship by the time the “abandon ship” message was given. They said they felt angry and let down.
“It’s… horrible because it is supposed to be the captain to [be] the last one to stay on the ship if there is a collision like this and not the passengers and the crew members,” said Andrew Bacud, a steward on the ship.
On Wednesday, the first of the 11 confirmed dead to be identified was a 38-year-old Hungarian violinist, Sandor Feher.
His body was found in the wreck and identified by his mother.
The ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, has yesterday admitted to making a navigational error, Italian media reported.
Francesco Schettino told investigators he had “ordered the turn too late” as the luxury ship sailed close to an island, according to a leaked interrogation transcript.
Captain Francesco Schettino is under house arrest on suspicion of multiple manslaughter. Prosecutors have also accused him of fleeing the ship before evacuation was complete.
Salvage work on Costa Concordia cruise ship is expected to begin later on Wednesday, as hopes fade that any more survivors will be found on the stricken cruise ship.
Rescuers have been through almost all of the ship that remains above the water line and experts believe there is little risk of a major fuel leak.
Eleven bodies have been recovered so far and 24 people are missing.
The captain of the Italian ship, Francesco Schettino is under house arrest, accused of causing the crash.
Salvage work on Costa Concordia cruise ship is expected to begin later on Wednesday, as hopes fade that any more survivors will be found on the stricken cruise ship
Along with the salvage workers – who will begin operations once rescue efforts have been declared over – a specialist team from Dutch salvage company SMIT is to start drilling through the ship towards the 17 tanks that hold more than 2,000 tons of fuel.
The firm says this could take several weeks.
The announcement that Captain Francesco Schettino would be held under house arrest instead of in jail came as prosecutors accused him of causing the crash and also of fleeing the Costa Concordia while passengers were still stranded.
A recording of a call between him and a port official after the crash appears to support this, though Captain Francesco Schettino denies the claims.
In the recording, released by the Corriere della Sera newspaper, Livorno Port Authority chief Gregorio de Falco can be heard repeatedly telling the captain to get back on board the ship to help the stranded passengers.
“Schettino, maybe you saved yourself from the sea, but I’ll make you have trouble for sure. Go aboard,” says Gregorio De Falco.
Francesco Schettino appears to refuse, replying first that there are rescuers already on board, and then that it is dark and difficult to see.
Gregorio De Falco replies: “Do you want to go home, Schettino? It’s dark, so you want to go home?”
Coastguards believe Captain Francesco Schettino never went back to the ship. He was arrested shortly afterwards.
But during a court hearing on Tuesday, the captain said he could not get on board the vessel because it was lying on its side.
Francesco Schettino argued that after hitting rocks he had executed a difficult manoeuvre that had saved many people’s lives.
The ship, carrying 4,200 passengers and crew, had its hull ripped open when it hit rocks late on Friday, just hours after leaving the port of Civitavecchia for a week-long Mediterranean cruise.
Some people were forced to swim for shore as the angle of the ship made launching lifeboats impossible.
Meanwhile, satellite tracking information published in the shipping journal Lloyd’s List Intelligence shows that the Costa Concordia sailed closer to Giglio island on a cruise last August than it did on its disastrous voyage on Friday.
Lloyd’s List said that the vessel passed within 230m of the island on 14 August 2011 to mark La Notte di San Lorenzo – the night of the shooting stars festival on the island.
The route deviation on that occasion had apparently been authorized by Costa Cruises – the company which owns the vessel.
The company said on Monday that the ship was never closer than 500 m to the coast when it passed on 14 August.
Lloyd’s List describes that occasion as a “near miss” and says the ship’s route would have been less than 200 m away from the point of collision on Friday’s voyage.
Costa Cruises said on Monday that the route deviation last Friday had been “unauthorized, unapproved and unknown to Costa”.
But Richard Meade, the Editor of Lloyd’s List, said: “The company’s account of what happened, of the rogue master [Capt Schettino] taking a bad decision, isn’t quite as black and white as they presented originally.”
“This ship took a very similar route only a few months previously and the master would have known that.”
Costa Cruises says it is looking into the claims, but stands by the statement it gave on Monday.
Meanwhile, Lloyd’s List says the issue of which nautical charts the captain of the vessel was using looks likely to be critical to his defense if he does face a criminal prosecution.