Fleeing captain ordered back to ship

AN Italian Coast Guard officer reportedly resorted to threats in a desperate bid to force the captain of the Costa Concordia back to his stricken cruise ship.

The excerpts, which come from mobile phone calls and exchanges recorded by the ship's black box obtained by the Italian news agency ANSA, allege Captain Francesco Schettino hesitated to return to the ship even after bodies had already been spotted within the wreckage.

According to the accounts, Italian Coast Guard Captain Gregorio De Falco becomes increasingly exasperated as he argues with Captain Schettino to try to convince him to return to the boat and help coordinate the rescue effort.

''What are you doing? Are you abandoning the rescue? Captain, this is an order. I am the one in charge now. You have declared 'abandon ship','' Captain De Falco says.

"Look Schettino, perhaps you have saved yourself from the sea but I will make you look very bad, I will make you pay for this, damn it!

>>Read more on the Brisbane Times

Hunt for girl as death toll rises

The bodies of five more passengers were discovered in the wreckage of the Costa Concordia yesterday, as the feared death toll from the disaster continued to rise.

Authorities believe up to 25 passengers and four crew - including a five-year-old Italian girl and a woman who was on her honeymoon - could still be missing.

So far 11 people are known to have perished in the tragedy.

Some 700 rescuers are involved in the recovery operation, although hopes of finding anyone still alive below the waterline of the holed ship are slim.

Local police said it was possible some of the missing may have made their way home without contacting the authorities during the chaos of the evacuation, while others may be among unidentified bodies found yesterday.

Among the missing are a group of up to 14 German tourists, as well as five Italian, four French and two Americans. Four crew members from Italy, Peru, India and Hungary are also feared lost.

A five-year-old Italian girl, Dyana Arlotti, and her father William, 34, from Rimini, are still unaccounted for.

Also missing is Maria DiIntrono, 30, from Turin who was on her honeymoon. She was the only one from the wedding party not to reach safety.

The latest bodies - four men and a woman - were discovered by divers at the stern near an emergency evacuation point. They were wearing lifeboats and aged between 50 and 60. All are believed to be passengers.

Of the confirmed dead, two are known to be French, one is Italian, one Spanish and one is a Peruvian crew member.

Earlier, rescuers used three controlled explosions to blast their way into inaccessible parts of the ship. There they discovered the former holiday playground has been transformed by heavy floating furniture and pitch-black conditions into a perilous maze of luxury cabins, bars and spas.

The search is now focusing on areas of the ship where the passengers gathered. However, as one tearful firefighter said: "Virtually all the dry part has been searched. It would need a miracle to find anyone alive in the wet part."

Small underwater cameras have been deployed to assist the search but no survivors have been found since Sunday.

Luckily the weather improved yesterday after high seas caused the rescue effort to be suspended on Monday. However, meteorologists forecast a worsening of conditions in coming days.

Meanwhile, Smit, a Netherlands-based salvage company said it would take its engineers and divers up to four weeks to extract the 500,000 gallons of fuel aboard the ship.

It also emerged that Carnival, the holding company of Costa Cruises, has called in Clarence Mitchell, spokesman for the family of missing toddler Madeleine McCann, to handle its corporate communications during the crisis.

Topics:  costa concordia

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