January 19 — Third update: After a day delay caused by a slight shift in the position of the wreck, rescue efforts resumed aboard the wrecked COSTA CONCORDIA off the island of Giglio off the coast of Tuscany.
As of today the number of people listed as missing stands at 21, with 11 confirmed dead. Captain Schettino remains under house arrest on suspicion of multiple manslaughter and Costa reportedly has suspended him and withdrawn an offer to pay his legal costs.
Dutch salvage company SMIT, is planning to begin extracting thousands of gallons of fuel oil to avert possible environmental damage. There is concern that the ship could slide into deeper water. Stormy weather forecast for the area tonight.
In yet another strange turn of events, the Italian media have also shown images of a Moldovan woman on TV who claimed she was on the bridge after the ship grounded, and defended the captain’s actions, investigators are now trying to reach her. It was said the she did not appear on the manifest.
Lloyds, reporting on recent traffic flow in the area, said the COSTA CONCORDIA was the only cruise ship to have come close to Giglio, all others steering a course far from land.
January 17 — Second Update: Mickey Arison, Chairman of Carnival Corporation, parent company of Costa Cruises, issued the following statement in the aftermath of the discovery of five more bodies on board the COSTA CONCORDIA:
“We are deeply saddened by the reports of additional deaths following the grounding of the Costa Concordia. On behalf of the entire Carnival Corporation & plc team, I offer our heartfelt condolences to all of those families affected by this tragedy.
Our immediate priority continues to be supporting rescue and recovery efforts and looking after our guests and crew members, along with securing the vessel to ensure there is no environmental impact. My senior management team and I have been in continuous contact with the Costa executive team in Italy and we have our senior level technical experts on the ground to provide additional support for this tragic and highly unusual incident.
While this is a terribly sad time for everyone involved, we want to recognize the tremendous efforts of Concordia’s crew, who along with the Italian Coast Guard and authorities, helped to evacuate more than 4,000 passengers and crew members from the ship in very difficult conditions. And we continue to offer our deep gratitude to the Italian authorities for their support and ongoing efforts.”
January 17 — First Update: With calmer seas and several holes now blasted into the keeled over ship’s hull assisting rescue and recovery efforts, another five bodies were pulled from the wreckage of the COSTA CONCORDIA. The confirmed deaths now number eleven, with twenty four people still unaccounted for.
Meanwhile, audio transcripts of the Italian Coast Guard reprimanding and demanding that the captain, Francesco Schettino, return to the foundering ship to oversee the evacuation of some 100 remaining guests, have also been released. Yesterday, Costa Chairman Pier Luigi Foschi attributed the disaster to “human error” on the part of the captain, who “did not follow the authorized route.” Schettino remains under house arrest on suspicion of multiple counts of manslaughter and abandoning ship.
January 16: The death toll from the loss of COSTA CONCORDIA rose to six today as divers found the body of another passenger. The man, in a life-jacket, was discovered by rescuers in a passageway in part of the ship that remains above water.
The number of people missing also rose by two, to sixteen, as two women previously recorded as evacuated have since failed to contact relatives, and their whereabouts remain unknown. Fire crew chief Cosimo Pulito said rescuers had only so far searched about a quarter of the vessel and that most of the above water spaces were clear and some underwater areas had been searched.
On Sunday, reports surfaced that residents on the island of Giglio said they had never seen the COSTA CONCORDIA, which makes a weekly pass of the island, come so close to the Le Scole reef on Giglio’s eastern coast and recalled that cruise ships usually stayed over five nautical miles offshore.
Local officials have expressed concern that the ship’s fuel could spill into the pristine waters around the island, which is in a marine reserve. However, there was no sign of pollution as of yet and fuel pumping may soon empty the fuel tanks that were filled before the voyage commenced.
There is also some concern that if the rougher weather should cause a swell, the ship could potentially break free from the rocky slope on which the hull is resting and fully sink. The rescue mission continues under these very dangerous conditions. Diving leader Rudolfo Raitere stated: “The swell could break the ship free. If that happens it will slip to the bottom of the sea. We need to keep working as quickly as we can.”
Italian authorities are holding the Captain under suspicion of manslaughter and abandoning his ship. According to Italian navigation code, a captain who abandons a ship in danger can face up to 12 years in prison.
MARTIN COX - Founder and publisher of MaritimeMatters, inspired by maritime culture and technology growing up in the port of Southampton. He works as a photographer in Los Angeles, and his works has been exhibited in LA, San Francisco, New York, London and Iceland. Martin is the co-writer of the book “Hollywood to Honolulu; the story of the Los Angeles Steamship Company” published by the Steam Ship Historical Society of America. The Los Angeles Maritime Museum has commissioned artworks and collected his photographs.