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Costa Concordia search called off, 15 passengers still missing

The search for bodies inside the capsized Costa Concordia cruise ship has been called off, due to dangerous conditions inside the wreck.

Costa Concordia search called off 31 01 2012Enlarge
People watch salvage and recovery efforts aboard the Costa Concordia. The underwater search of the vessel has been called off. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

The search for bodies inside the Costa Concordia has been called off, because of the danger to rescue crew.

Fifteen people are still missing since the cruise ship ran aground near Giglio island, off the west coast of Italy, on Jan. 13.

More from GlobalPost: Costa Concordia death toll reaches 17

"We have definitively stopped the underwater search inside the ship," a spokesman for the Giglio fire brigade told Agence France Presse. "The conditions are no longer acceptable."

The decision was discussed with the families of the people still missing, according to Italy's civil protection agency.

Crews will continue to search the parts of the Concordia above water level and use specialist equipment to scan for bodies on the sea floor below the wreck.

A number of objects have been spotted in the water around the wreck that investigators suspect to be bodies, Reuters reported. Rescuers will explore an area of seven square miles around the ship.

The search operation has already been suspended several times while heavy seas caused the ship to shift. Divers faced increasingly tough conditions as maneuverability and visibility decreased, and were limited to spending no more than 50 minutes inside the wreck.

The next priority is to remove the ship's diesel fuel and avoid it spilling. The pumping operation was due to begin this week, but has been delayed by bad weather.

Italian officials say it could take as long as 10 months to fully recover the ship.

More from GlobalPost: Costa Concordia could take 10 months to remove

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/italy/120131/costa-concordia-search-called-off