|Some survivors of the January 23 crash are organising a class-action lawsuit against the cruise company [Reuters]
Divers have recovered the body of another victim from the wreck of the cruise ship that sunk off the coast of Italy earlier this month, raising the number of confirmed dead to 17.
Although efforts to find the remaining missing passengers continued on Saturday, rough seas forced workers to delay the planned start of an operation to remove around 1.8 million litres of fuel from the Costa Concordia, and officials said pumping may not begin until midweek.
The newly recovered victim, a woman who had not been wearing a life jacket, was found on the submerged sixth-floor deck, civil protection officials said.
Costa Cruises, the owner of the Concordia and a subsidiary of the Carnival Corporation, has offered to pay $14,500 to each of the more than 3,000 passengers aboard the ship that capsized near the island of Giglio two weeks ago, Italian consumer groups said.
The offer, negotiated by the consumer groups, is an attempt by Costa Cruises to limit the legal fallout of the accident.
Each passenger would also receive a refund on the cruise and costs of their return home, according to the Friday announcement.
The offer applies to all passengers, whether a child or an adult, who suffered no physical injuries. Injured passengers will be dealt with individually, the company said.
Those accepting the offer would have to agree to drop all future litigation and would receive payment within seven days.
The Carnival Corporation, a British-American company with roughly $14.5bn in annual revenue, is already facing legal action for compensation.
Codacons, a consumer group that did not participate in the negotiation, is collecting names for a class action suit to be filed in Miami, the corporation's US headquarters, requesting $163,923 for each passenger.
Carlo Rienzi, president of Codacons, said Costa Cruise's payout offer was insufficient and urged passengers to see a doctor to check whether they had suffered psychological trauma.
Crew member Gary Lobaton has already filed a lawsuit against Carnival in a US district court.
His lawyers said in his court filing that he was not aware of the "dangerous conditions" of the cruise ship until it was too late to abandon it safely.
On Thursday, Italy's top-ranking Coast Guard official, Marco Brusco, said Concordia Captain Francesco Schettino lost "a precious hour", which made evacuating the ship more difficult.
Had the order been given earlier, "the lifeboats could have been launched calmly, people could have been reassured", Brusco said in testimony before the Italian senate.
Passengers have complained that the evacuation was chaotic, with some left waiting in lifeboats for two hours before being able to leave the ship.
Several bodies were found by divers in submerged evacuation assembly points, wearing life vests.
Sixteen bodies have so far been recovered and 16 are still missing after the 290-metre-long cruise liner struck ground near the Tuscan island.