Thursday January 19, 2012

By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator, Thursday January 19, 2012

Italian cruise disaster

A stricken Italian cruise liner shifted on its rocky resting place Monday as worsening weather disrupted an increasingly despairing hunt for survivors and authorities raised their estimate of the number missing to 29 people.

As the Costa Concordia’s owners blamed their captain for veering shorewards on Friday in a bravura “salute” to residents of a Tuscan island, the giant ship slid a little, threatening to plunge its whole carcass and 2,300 tonnes of fuel below the Mediterranean waters of the surrounding nature reserve.

The slippage forced rescuers to suspend for a few hours their efforts to find anyone still alive after three days in the capsized hull, resting on a jagged slope near the island of Giglio. Firefighters said the search would resume at daybreak.

Six bodies have been found since the ship foundered after striking a rock Friday night. Italian coast guard officials on Monday revised the number of people missing up to 29 — 25 passengers and four staff members — from 16.

Environment Minister Corrado Clini said he would declare a state of emergency because of the risk that the ship’s fuel would leak into the Tuscan Archipelago National Park. No fuel spillage has been detected so far, he told an Italian TV show.

The father of the ship’s head waiter said his son telephoned him before the accident to say the crew would salute him by blowing the ship’s whistle as they passed close by Giglio, where both the waiter, Antonello Tievoli, and his father Giuseppe live. “The ship obviously came too close,” the elder Tievoli said. “I don’t know if Antonello asked the captain to come near, but the responsibility is always the captain’s.” (Source: Toronto Star)

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