Seach on for missing cruise-ship passengers

Experts use controlled explosions on Costa Concordia's wreck to gain access to vessel's previously unreachable parts.

    More than a week after the Costa Concordia cruise ship capsized off the small Italian island of Giglio, rescue teams are continuing their search for the missing after halting previous efforts because of safety concerns.

    Experts used controlled explosives on the vessel's wreck on Saturday to gain access to new parts which were previously unreachable.

    Eleven people are known to have died out of more than 4,200 passengers and crew aboard when the ship struck a rock just metres from the shoreline, tearing a large gash in the side of the hull while 21 are still unaccounted for.

    Al Jazeera's Paul Brennan, reporting from Giglio, said any hope for finding survivors is gone and Saturday's exercise was mostly a search operation.

    "Some of the relatives of the 21 missing passengers have arrived on the island to assess and understand of the scale the tragedy," he said.

    "Indeed, some of them have been critical of the authorities who have had to suspend the operations three times now because the ship has been shifting on the rocks, and the divers' safety has to be paramount in view of the fact that chances are almost unrealistic that anyone on board is still alive."

    Divers preparing

    Groups of divers could be seen preparing their specialist gear before travelling to the vessel on small dinghies.

    More than a week after the 114,500-tonne ship ran aground and capsized off the Tuscany coast, hopes of finding anyone alive have all but disappeared, and the cold waters around the vessel have become rougher, with worse weather expected at the weekend.

    Amateur video from the sinking Costa Concordia

    Despite this, rescue workers are still looking for a missing five-year-old girl and her father.

    Attention is now turning to how to remove some 2,400 tonnes of fuel from the vessel, which lies on its side on a rocky shelf in about 20m of water off the little island of Giglio and which could slide off its resting place.

    Salvage crews are waiting until the search for survivors and bodies is called off before they can begin pumping the fuel out of the wreck, a process expected to take at least two weeks.

    Costa Crociere SpA, the company that owns the ship, initially offered support to the captain in the hours after the emergency but has now turned its back on the man who is under investigation for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship.

    Schettino, who was jailed after he left the ship, is under house arrest near Naples.

    Costa in recent days has suspended Schettino, announced it is no longer paying his legal fees, and has signed on as a civil party in the prosecution, a move that positions it as an injured party and would allow it to seek damages in the case of a guilty verdict.

    Choppy seas have moved the ship and ended searches twice before. If the Concordia does slip off the reef, it will plunge almost 100 metres to the bottom of the Mediterranean.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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