Rescue operations have resumed in Italy, in hopes of finding those still missing after a cruise ship capsized Friday night. The operations had been suspended for several hours after the vessel shifted today in rough seas.
Just beyond where the gashed ship lies, off the island of Giglio, the seabed drops off quickly by some 65-100 feet. If the Concordia suddenly drops, any divers participating in the rescue operation could be doomed.
There are also increasing concerns that any further movement of the wreck could cause some of the 500,000 gallons of fuel on board to leak into the pristine waters off Giglio. The waters are a protected dolphin sanctuary.
The confirmed death toll rose to six after searchers found the body of a male passenger wearing a life vest in the corridor of the above-water portion of the ship.
The number of people believed missing jumped from 16 to 29 Monday. A top coast guard official, Marco Brusco, said on state TV that 25 passengers and four crew members are unaccounted for three days after the ship crashed into a reef off the Tuscan coast and capsized. Earlier in the day that number stood at 16.
Chances that they would be found alive three days after the ship was speared by the reef and toppled to one side are growing slimmer.
Among those unaccounted for are two Americans, identified as Gerald and Barbara Heil of White Bear Lake, Minn.
The chairman and CEO of the cruise line said the captain made an unauthorized change-of-course that led to the deadly crash against a reef.
The captain, Francesco Schettino, has been detained by police and is being investigated for manslaughter, abandoning the ship and causing a shipwreck. Passengers say he made his way to safety before everyone on board had been evacuated, and the Italian coast guard says he rejected their efforts to get him to return to the ship.
The ship's tilt made many of the life rafts useless, and helicopters had to rescue dozens of people still on board.
Prosecutors who are investigating the captain for manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing a shipwreck stepped up their scathing criticism of his conduct.
"We are struck by the unscrupulousness of the reckless maneuver that the commander of the Costa Concordia made near the island of Giglio," prosecutor Francesco Verusio told reporters. "It was inexcusable."
A judge on Tuesday is expected to decide if the captain should be charged and remain jailed in Grosseto on the mainland.
Costa Crociere SpA chairman and CEO Pier Luigi Foschi said the company would provide him legal assistance, but he disassociated Costa from his behavior, saying it broke all rules and regulations.
"Capt. Schettino took an initiative of his own will which is contrary to our written rules of conduct," Foschi said in his first public comments since the grounding.
At a news conference in Genoa, the company's home base, Foschi said that Costa ships have their routes programmed, and alarms go off when they deviate. Those alarms are disabled if the ship's course is manually altered, he said.
"This route was put in correctly upon departure from Civitavecchia," Foschi said, referring to the port outside Rome. "The fact that it left from this course is due solely to a maneuver by the commander that was unapproved, unauthorized and unknown to Costa."
Schettino claims the rock that tore open his ship was not marked on his charts and that he was not too close to shore.
Foschi didn't respond directly to prosecutors' and passengers' accusations that Schettino abandoned ship before all passengers had been evacuated, but he suggested his conduct wasn't as bad in the hours of the evacuation as has been portrayed. He didn't elaborate.
The Italian coast guard says Schettino defied their entreaties for him to return to his ship as the chaotic evacuation of the 4,200 people aboard was in full progress. After the ship's tilt put many life rafts out of service, helicopters had to pluck to safety dozens of people remaining aboard, hours after Schettino was seen leaving the vessel.
The captain has insisted in an interview before his jailing that he stayed with the vessel to the end.
Foschi defended the conduct of the crew, while acknowledging that passengers had described a chaotic evacuation where crew members consistently downplayed the seriousness of the situation as the nearly 1,000 foot-long ship lurched to the side.
"All our crew members behaved like heroes. All of them," he said.
He noted that 4,200 people managed to evacuate a lilting ship at night within two hours. In addition, the ship's evacuation procedures had been reviewed last November by an outside firm and port authorities and no faults were found, he said.
Costa owner Carnival Corp. estimated that preliminary losses from having the Concordia out of operation for at least through 2012 would be between $85 million and $95 million, though it said there would be other costs as well.
Costa executive Costa said that the Rotterdam, Netherlands-based Smit, one of the world's biggest salvagers, will try to salvage the 1,000 foot cruise liner and would provide a study by Tuesday on how to extract the fuel.
Smit has a long track record of dealing with wrecks and leaks, including refloating grounded bulk carriers and securing drilling platforms in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. A spokesman for Smit, which is part of dredging and maritime services giant Royal Boskalis Westminster NV, did not immediately return calls seeking comment on the Concordia salvage.