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Costa Concordia fuel removal is underway (VIDEO)

Italian officials begin to remove some of the 500,000 gallons of fuel aboard the Italian cruise ship.

Costa concordia 2012 02 07Enlarge
Firemen patrol the area near the Costa Concordia cruise ship in the harbor of the Tuscan island of Giglio. At least 17 people died when the ship struck rocks and keeled over onto its side as it carried out a traditional salute to islanders last month. Fifteen people remain unaccounted for. (ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

Authorities in Italy say pumping operations have begun to remove some of the 500,000 gallons of fuel aboard the Costa Concordia, the Associated Press reported.

The process began on Sunday about a month after the ship capsized off the Italian island of Giglio.

Officials say it will take 28 consecutive days of pumping to empty the tanks, according to AP.

Bart Huizing, from the Dutch salvage firm Smit that is handling the fuel removal, told Reuters "we have the weather forecast showing at least four to five days of good weather so we will continue with the pumping 24 hours a day."

More from GlobalPost: Oil spreads from Costa Concordia cruise ship

Bad weather and search operations have caused delays, prompting fears of a leak into the protected waters off the island.

About 4,200 passengers and crew escaped, but 17 died when the ship capsized and 15 more are missing and presumed dead.

More from GlobalPost: AUDIO: Costa Concordia captain accused of abandoning ship

AP reported earlier Sunday during a memorial service for victims, Italy's President Giorgio Napolitano said he was sorry that what transpired "was the responsibility of Italy and Italians."

"We must continue to investigate," Napolitano said. "Prosecutors deserve respect for the job they're doing."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/italy/120212/costa-concordia-fuel-removal-underway