Costa Cruise Ship Search Suspended

January 16th, 2012 by Mariah

Giglio, Italy (CNN) — The search for survivors and victims aboard the partially sunken cruise ship Costa Concordia was suspended Monday because the vessel began to move, said the mayor of the nearby island of Giglio, Sergio Ortelli.

The cruise ship hit rocks and rolled onto its side over the weekend, leaving at least six people dead.

Its owner is due to speak to the media Monday morning and may clear up questions about what caused the disaster.

Italian prosecutors ruled out Monday a technical error, saying the captain was on the bridge at the time of the accident and had made a “grave error.”

Captain Francesco Schettino is under arrest and may face charges including manslaughter, shipwreck, and abandoning a ship when passengers were still on board, Italian prosecutor Francesco Verusio said.

Schettino faces up to 15 years in prison, Verusio said.

The captain has not yet been interrogated, but more than 100 witnesses, including passengers and crew, have been questioned, the prosecutor said.

Prosecutors are examining the ship’s data recorder and expect to have results within days, he said.

They are also considering whether others may share responsibility for the crash with the captain.

Schettino has said on Italian television that the rocks he hit were not marked on his map.

Divers had been searching the skyscraper-sized ship, working underwater in pitch blackness, in hopes of finding about 16 people still missing after the wreck. There were roughly 4,200 people on the Costa Concordia when it ran aground Friday evening off Giglio.

The Spanish Foreign Ministry named one of the victims Monday as Guillermo Gual Buades, 68, saying his family had identified him.

The disaster will cost the ship’s owner $85 million to $95 million in the fiscal year to November, parent company Carnival Corporation said Monday — not including “other costs to the business that are not possible to determine at this time.”

The ship is expected to be out of service “for the remainder of the current fiscal year if not longer,” the company said.

The captain of the ill-fated cruise ship may have made “significant” errors that led to wreck, the cruise line said late Sunday.

“The route of the vessel appears to have been too close to the shore, and the captain’s judgment in handling the emergency appears to have not followed standard Costa procedures,” Costa Cruises said in a statement.

Schettino joined Costa Cruises as a safety officer in 2002 before being appointed captain four years later, the company said.

First officer Ciro Ambrosio was being detained for questioning on similar charges, prosecutor Verusio said.

Even with its admission that mistakes were made, the Genoa-based cruise company defended the ship’s crew in the face of criticism.

“It is becoming clear that the crew of the Costa Concordia acted bravely and swiftly to help evacuate more than 4,000 individuals during a very challenging situation,” the company said, adding all crew members are trained and the passengers earlier took part in an evacuation drill.

Survivors have described the scene — after the ship hit rocks near Giglio, off the coast of Tuscany, and turned over on its side — as “chaos.”

“It was just battling, mad scrambles,” American student Brandon Warrick said of the fight to board lifeboats, describing it as “a giant every man for himself.”

His sister Amanda said she feared she was going to die as they waited for up to two hours for rescue.

“Waiting was definitely the worst. Because we didn’t know who was going to be coming, how much longer we would have to wait,” she said.

Authorities have said at least 20 people were injured due to the incident, in addition to those killed.

That death toll includes two elderly people whose bodies were found, with their life jackets on, near one of the ship’s restaurants, Italian Coast Guard spokesman Capt. Cosimo Nicastro told reporters Sunday.

Hours earlier, crews rescued a ship employee trapped in a ship restaurant.

The man — an Italian purser whose name was not released — was suffering from hypothermia when rescue crews found him, said Commander Filippo Marini, a spokesman for the Port Authority of Porto Santo Stefano.

Authorities are reviewing passenger lists to confirm the exact number of missing people, said Giuseppe Orsina, a spokesman with the local civil protection agency. Many of those rescued in the early hours were taken to small churches and other buildings around the island for shelter. Some were still wearing the pajamas and slippers they had on as the ship went down.

“These people could be still on the island of Giglio, in private houses or in hospitals,” Orsina said.

The U.S. Embassy in Italy, on its Twitter feed, said two of the 120 Americans who were aboard the ship still had not been accounted for. It was not clear Sunday as to the nationalities of other missing people, with CNN affiliates having reported Italians, Peruvians, Brazilians, French and Britons were all represented on the ship.

All 109 Russians on board have been accounted for, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced late Sunday.

There were fears the death toll could rise as rescuers searched the ship, which was nearly 50% submerged and had a gash in its hull, authorities said.

Questions and criticism continue about what caused the shipwreck and the adequacy of the response.

Speaking on Italian television, the ship’s captain insisted the rocks that the Concordia hit were not marked on his map.

“On the nautical chart, it was marked just as water,” Schettino said, adding that the ship was about 328 yards (300 meters) from shore.

But Nicastro, the Coast Guard spokesman, insisted that the waters where the ship ran aground were well-mapped. Local fishermen say the island coast of Giglio is known for its rocky sea floor.

“Every danger in this area is on the nautical chart,” Nicastro said. “This is a place where a lot of people come for diving and sailing. … All the dangers are known.”

He said the Coast Guard was investigating why the ship took the course it did.

“We know where the ship was,” he said. “We know it was too close to the island. … We don’t know why.”

Italian prosecutors seized the ship’s data recorders Saturday. Costa Cruses said Sunday that it can only access that information with authorities’ permission.

Built in 2006, the Concordia had been on a Mediterranean cruise from Rome with stops in Savona, Marseille, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Cagliari and Palermo.

The ship was carrying about 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members when it ran aground and began taking on water Friday night.

The crew kept going because they believed the vessel could continue sailing normally, said Nicastro, the Coast Guard spokesman. Realizing there was a significant safety problem, the commander steered the Costa Concordia closer toward the port of Giglio, he said.

Authorities are looking at why the ship didn’t send a mayday during the accident.

Besides the two elderly people, the dead include two French tourists and a crew member from Peru, port authorities in Livorno said. One of the victims was a 65-year-old woman who died of a heart attack, authorities said.