Two more bodies have been found on board the Italian cruise liner that ran aground Saturday, Italian coast guard said, but more than a dozen remained missing.
The coast guard said on Sunday that the bodies of the two elderly people were found in the submerged restaurant of the Costa Concordia cruise ship.
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Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan, reporting from Isola Del Giglio, said the rescue operations were ongoing.
“Sometime this afternoon, two additional bodies – above the three we already knew had died – were found. Frankly, there are still more people that are likely to be inside [the ship].
“The mayor of this town, at lunch time today, said 17 people remained unaccounted for: six crew and 11 passengers. The two bodies that have been found this afternoon will most likely reduce that 17 to just 15 unaccounted for. It is not a good day from the rescuers point of view.”
Rescue crews managed to evacuate to safety one passenger during the day on Sunday and two other survivors during a night-time operation on Saturday.
The captain of the ship, Francesco Schettino, has meanwhile been detained on suspicion of manslaughter after at least three people were found dead as a result of the accident on Friday when the ship hit an obstacle and tipped over.
Most of the 3,216 passengers and 1,013 crew members have been evacuated to safety. Dozens were also injured in the accident, at least two of them seriously.
Police divers and rescue crews continue to circle the wreckage in an apparent search for other survivors.
Authorities have launched an investigation into the cause of the accident. Schettino had reportedly left the stricken cruise liner “well before” the last passengers were evacuated, the prosecutor in charge of investigating the disaster told the news channel SkyTG24 on Sunday.
“At around 8:00pm (19:00 GMT) the 290-metre-long Costa Concordia cruise ship … began taking on water and tilting over by around 20 degrees,” the coast guard said in a statement on Saturday.
The vessel was taking in water through a 50m hole in its hull on Saturday, and the condition of the vessel appeared to be worsening.
Paul Brennan reports on the Costa Concordia
Helicopters were used to help rescuers, and passengers were transferred to the mainland at Porto Santo Stefano.
Italian authorities said they were trying to find room to accommodate the rescued passengers, including pregnant women and children.
Two French tourists and Peruvian crew member were confirmed to be dead. Authorities fear the casualty figure could rise beyond that.
One of the victims was a man in his 70s who died of a heart attack caused by the shock to his system when he jumped into the icy waters, reports said.
The 114,500-tonne Costa Concordia was on a trip around the Mediterranean when it “hit an obstacle” near the island of Giglio off the coast of Tuscany.
Some passengers heard a loud bang and were initially told the ship had shuddered to a halt for electrical reasons, before being told to put on their life-jackets.
Many were eating dinner and some were in their cabins at the time of the accident.
Emily Lau, a passenger, told Al Jazeera on Saturday that people were afraid as the ship began to tilt.
She said that crew members tried to reassure the passengers, but that they had trouble handling the situation.
“When we got to the deck, people were just utterly hysterical, mostly not because something was scary, but because there was no control.
“It was just utter madness. People were falling because the ship was actually sinking quite fast. And the next thing we heard was ‘abandon ship’,” Lau said.
“We had to embark onto our lifeboats, and people were rushing onto the lifeboats and there was no order of any sort. No one told us what to do,” she said.
The Costa Crociera company, which owns the vessel, said that it was not yet possible to say what caused the problem, but that the evacuation had been fast.
“The ship was on a cruise in the Mediterranean, leaving from Savona with planned stops in Civitavecchia, Palermo, Cagliari, Palma, Barcelona and Marseilles,” the company said.
Costa Concordia was built in 2004-2005 at a cost of 450 million euros at the Fincantieri Sestri shipyard in Italy.