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Italy fears a stricken cruise ship may soon rupture and spill half a million gallons of fuel into the pristine waters of one of Europe's biggest marine parks.
Italy fears that a stricken cruise ship may soon rupture and spill half a million gallons of fuel into the pristine waters of one of Europe's biggest marine parks.
As an environmental catastrophe looms, rescue workers found five more bodies Tuesday, raising the death toll from the wreck to at least 11, CNN reported.
More than a dozen passengers and crew members of the Costa Concordia are still missing despite sustained rescue efforts since the cruise ship crashed into a rock ledge off the island of Giglio, on Italy's west coast, Friday night.
The 1,000 foot ship, wedged on the rock shelf yards off Giglio, began to shift Monday in choppy seas, according to the Daily Telegraph, and threatened to fall 300 feet to the seabed.
The weather also hampered the search for survivors, while the search for bodies was suspended completely, the AP reported.
Italy's environmental minister, meantime, reportedly said that liquid had begun leaking from the vessel, though he did not specify that it was fuel.
Giglio, located about 14 miles from the Tuscan coast whose winter population of 1,500 survives on fishing and tourism, lies within the 33,783-square-mile "Santuario dei Cetacei," declared in 1999 by the governments of France, Italy and Monaco a sanctuary for marine mammals.
Italy's environment minister has said any leakage of fuel in the area could amount to an environmental catastrophe, the Associated Press reported.
The ship's operator, Costa Cruises, a unit of Carnival Corp, has enlisted one of the world's biggest salvagers — Smit of Rotterdam, Netherlands — to remove 500,000 gallons of fuel from the cruise liner, according to Bloomberg.
Smit personnel and equipment had begun to arrive in the area, and company divers hoped to inspect the ship in the coming days.
Meanwhile, according to the AP:
The ship's jailed captain ... lost the support of the vessel's Italian owner as he battled prosecutors' claims that he caused the deadly wreck that killed at least six.
Costa Cruises blames Francesco Schettino — who was arrested on Saturday and accused of manslaughter and abandoning the ship before all of the people were evacuated — for the disaster, saying he changed the ship's course.
The company also rejected suggestions that the sheer size of the cruise ship had made it impossible to evacuate the more than 4,000 people onboard safely.
"These ships are ultra-safe. It is an exceptional event, which was unforeseeable," a visually emotional chairman and chief executive Pier Luigi Foschi said as a news conference in Genoa, Reuters reported.
"The company will be close to the captain and will provide him with all the necessary assistance, but we need to acknowledge the facts and we cannot deny human error."
The claim came as it was revealed that a Czech newspaper in December 2010 quoted Schettino as saying that he enjoyed “diverging from standard procedures."
"I enjoy moments when something unpredictable happens, when you can diverge a bit from standard procedures," Britain's Daily Telegraph reported in a separate story. "It’s a challenge to face, I enjoy it."
The 52 year-old told a reporter from the daily Dnes newspaper, who was on a cruise with him: "I wouldn’t like to be in the role of the captain of the Titanic, having to sail in an ocean of icebergs."
The Italian Coast Guard said Tuesday that it had located a second "black box," or data recorder, from the ship, CNN reported.
The broadcaster cited Warrant Petty Officer Massimo Macaroni as saying the recorders were being analyzed to provide the authorities with "a complete picture of how the disaster unfolded."
The crew of the Costa Concordia, meantime, have also come in for harsh criticism, with passengers describing a terrifying scene of chaos and shameful acts of cowardice from uncaring or inept staff.
"No one was giving directions, saying older people and kids should get into the boats first," said Karen Camacho, of Homestead, Florida, told USA Today, likening it to scenes from the Hollywood film "Titanic."
"Instead of letting passengers get into lifeboats, the crew went in first and [was] saying not to let [passengers] in," she said. "My husband, he just climbed over a fence into a lifeboat after they closed it. Then they opened the gate for me.
"The lifeboat got stuck, and they couldn’t get it down. I said to my husband, 'We are going to die here.' "
"Everybody shoved and screamed in 15 different languages," Michelle Barraclough, an Australian mother traveling with her daughter, 12, told the Murdoch press.
"It was every man for himself. Everyone ran to the same lifeboat, and they were already full as soon as you got there,’’ Vanessa Rosales told The El Paso Times. "So you just kept running from one boat to the other."
Here's a video of the cruise ship evacuation: