Sixteenth body found on Italy cruise shipwreck


Fire brigade divers found a body in a stricken Italian cruise ship on Tuesday, bringing the official death toll to 16 as salvage crews prepared to pump 2,380 tonnes of fuel from its tanks.

The body was found on the third deck where some of the 114,500-tonne vessel's lifeboats were located, with rescuers declining to give further details on the grim discovery 11 days after the Mediterranean tragedy.

Emergency workers also identified one of the victims found so far as 30-year-old Maria D'Introno, whose relatives survived the disaster and said she was too scared to jump into the sea when the order came to abandon the ship.

The story of D'Introno – who had a life jacket but did not know how to swim – is one of the many dramas from a chaotic nighttime evacuation of the massive ship after it hit rocks off the island of Giglio on January 13 and keeled over.

Other victims include Hungarian Sandor Feher, 42, who helped children into a lifeboat before heading back towards his cabin to get his violin, and Frenchman Francis Servel, 71, who gave his wife his lifejacket. She survived.

The anger of survivors has concentrated on captain Francesco Schettino, who is under house arrest at his home on the Amalfi coast and is accused by prosecutors of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship.

But Schettino's wife defended him, saying he had become ‘a scapegoat’.

"There's a manhunt against him! People are looking for someone to blame, a scapegoat, a monster," Fabiola Russo said in an interview for the next edition of French magazine Paris Match, extracts of which were published on Tuesday.

Russo said he "knows how to analyse situations, understand them and manage them. At home he is very orderly, meticulous," adding that he was ‘lucid’ – a response to criticism that the captain appeared in an altered state that night.

Crews from Dutch company Smit Salvage on the island meanwhile were looking for the best way to access the Costa Concordia's 23 fuel tanks before syphoning all the heavy oil out in order to avert an environmental catastrophe.

Officials said the pumping was not expected to begin before Saturday and that the whole process could take weeks, with salvage workers working initially on the half of the oil that is accessible from the above-water part of the ship.

Smit will carry out a so-called ‘hot-tapping’ operation, which involves pumping the fuel out into a nearby ship and replacing it with water so as not to affect the ship's balance and stop it from slipping into the open sea.

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