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5 More Bodies Reportedly Found in Wrecked Italian Cruise Ship

 

Five more bodies have been found in the capsized cruise ship off the coast of Italy, Sky News reports, bringing the death toll to 11.

Teams have been searching the ship for passengers and crew missing since the Costa Concordia struck rocks Friday evening and capsized. Rescuers exploded four holes in the hull of the ship earlier Tuesday to gain easier access to areas that had not yet been searched.

Divers located the five bodies, all of them adults wearing life jackets, in the rear of the ship near an emergency evacuation point, according to Italian Coast Guard Cmdr. Cosimo Nicastro. He said they were thought to have been passengers.

Before the latest find, 29 people from the cruise ship were still missing. Officials said the missing included 14 Germans, six Italians, four French, two Americans, one Hungarian, one Indian and one Peruvian.

Coast Guard Cmdr. Filippo Marini said divers had recovered the so-called "black box," with the recording of the navigational details, from a compartment now under water.

The captain of a grounded cruise ship is heard in a recording making excuses as an Italian coast guard official repeatedly orders him to get back on his crippled ship. 

In a telephone conversation, the official berates the captain, who is on a lifeboat and repeatedly says he doesn't want to return to the ship even as passengers are still being evacuated. The ship struck a rock Friday evening and capsized.

The officer tells Francesco Schettino to reboard and assess the needs of passengers: "It is an order. Don't make any more excuses."

Schettino was placed under house arrest Tuesday, AFP reports.

Schettino has insisted he stayed aboard until the ship was evacuated, but the recording of his conversation with Italian Coast Guard Capt. Gregorio De Falco indicates he fled before all passengers were off -- and then resisted De Falco's repeated orders to return.

"You go on board and then you will tell me how many people there are. Is that clear?" De Falco shouted in the audio tape.

Schettino resisted, saying the ship was tipping and that it was dark. At the time, he was in a lifeboat and said he was coordinating the rescue from there.

De Falco shouted back: "And so what? You want go home, Schettino? It is dark and you want to go home? Get on that prow of the boat using the pilot ladder and tell me what can be done, how many people there are and what their needs are. Now!"

"You go aboard. It is an order. Don't make any more excuses. You have declared the abandoning of the ship, now I am in charge," De Falco shouted.

Schettino is finally heard agreeing to reboard. It is unclear whether he did.

Schettino has been jailed for investigation of manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing a shipwreck.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, prepared to question the captain, who is accused of causing the wreck and abandoning the Costa Concordia before all 4,200 people onboard were safely evacuated after the vessel capsized Friday night.

Navy spokesman Alessandro Busonero told Sky TV 24 the holes will help divers enter the wreck more easily. "We are rushing against time," he said.

The divers set four microcharges above and below the surface of the water, Busonero said. Television footage showed one hole above the waterline to be less than 6 feet in diameter.

"The hope is that the ship is empty and that the people are somewhere else, or if they are inside that they found a safe place to await rescue," Coast Guard spokesman Filippo Marini told Sky TV 24

The cruiseliner tragedy also has turned into a potential environmental crisis, with rough seas battering the stricken ship raising fears that fuel might leak into pristine waters off Giglio that are part of a sanctuary for dolphins, porpoises and whales.

Waters were relatively calm Tuesday with waves of just 30 centimeters, but they were expected to reach 1.8 meters Wednesday, according to meteorological forecasts.

The Italian Coast Guard on Monday raised the number of missing to 25 passengers and four crew. The missing appear to include a group of Germans, two Americans and six Italians. Family members have identified the Americans as Jerry Heil, 69, and his wife Barbara, 70, from White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

Italian Coast Guard official Marco Brusco said Tuesday there was still "a glimmer of hope" survivors could still be found on parts of the vast cruise liner not yet searched. The last survivor, a crewman who had broken his leg, was rescued Sunday.

The ship is carrying some 500,000 gallons of fuel on board. To date there's been no word of any leaks, but choppy waters that slightly shifted the wreckage on Monday escalated fears of one and suspended rescue operations for several hours.

The ship's operator, Costa Crociere SpA, has enlisted one of the world's leading salvagers, Smit of Rotterdam, Netherlands, to handle the removal of the 1,000-foot cruise liner and extract the fuel safely.

The cruise operator has said Capt. Francesco Schettino strayed from the ship's authorized course into waters too close to the perilous reef. The navigational version of a "fly by" was apparently a favor to the chief waiter who is from Giglio and whose parents live on the island, local media reported.

A judge is to decide Tuesday if Schettino should stay jailed. Prosecutor Francesco Verusio called Schettino's maneuver "reckless" and "inexcusable."

Miami-based Carnival Corp., which owns the Italian operator, estimated that preliminary losses from having the Concordia out of operation at least through 2012 would be between $85 million and $95 million, along with other costs. The company's share price slumped more than 16 percent Monday.

Costa Crociere chairman and CEO Pier Luigi Foschi said the company would provide Schettino with legal assistance, but he disassociated Costa from his behavior, saying it broke rules. "Capt. Schettino took an initiative of his own will which is contrary to our written rules of conduct," Foschi said.

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 Coast Guard said Schettino defied their entreaties to return to his ship as the chaotic evacuation of some 4,200 people was in progress. After the ship's tilt put many life rafts out of service, helicopters plucked to safety dozens of people still 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.

He noted that 4,200 people managed to evacuate a listing 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.