Navy divers conducting rescue operations from the wreckage of the Costa Concordia, a luxury cruise liner that capsized after hitting a reef, off the coast of Tuscany in Italy, discovered five more bodies on Tuesday. The death toll has now risen to 11.
The bodies recovered were of adults, wearing life jackets, and found at the rear of the ship, near an emergency evacuation point. As of now, there are still 23 people missing.
A view of the Costa Concordia cruise ship that ran aground off the west coast of Italy (Reuters)
The captain, Francesco Schettino, who reportedly smashed the vessel on a reef while showboating for locals on the Isola del Giglio, initially fled from the wreck before being forced to return and coordinate the rescue operation. He has been tagged by several reports as the most hated man in Italy.
Furthermore, according to estimates by Italian coast guard officials, the captain could have saved several lives, had he ordered the passengers to abandon ship immediately instead of waiting for 75 minutes.
According to witnesses on shore and the passengers struggling to abandon the vessel, the captain did not return to take charge of operations, which went on till 6 a.m.
Schettino, however, has denied these allegations and insisted he be credited with saving hundreds, if not thousands of lives, as he brought the ship closer to shore after hitting a rock, the National Post reported.
Schettino has been placed under house arrest and charged with multiple manslaughter and dereliction of duty. He faces the possibility of a 15-year jail term, The Australian reported.
Photo Credit: Reuters. Costa Concordia cruise liner captain Francesco Schettino (R) is escorted by a Carabinieri in Grosseto January 14, 2012
According to the harbor master's office, the shipwreck occured at 12:30 a.m and the last exchange with Schettino was at 1:46 a.m. The Italian media recently published the transcript of the telephone conversation, which happened sometime after the crash and during the abandoning of the ship...
Coast Guard: Listen, Schettino. There are people trapped on board. Now, you go with your lifeboat. Under the bow of the ship, on the right side, there is a ladder. You climb on that ladder and go on board the ship. Go on board the ship and get back to me and tell me how many people are there. Is that clear? I am recording this conversation, Captain Schettino.
Captain Schettino: At this moment the ship is listing.
Coast Guard: There are people who are coming down the ladder on the bow. Go back in the opposite direction, get back on the ship, and tell me how many people there are and what they have on board. Tell me if there are children, women and what type of help they need. And you tell me the number of each of these categories. Is that clear? Listen Schettino, perhaps you have saved yourself from the sea, but I will make you look very bad. I will make you pay for this. Dammit, go back on board!
Captain Schettino:: Please ...
Coast Guard: There is no 'please' about it. Get back on board. Assure me you are going back on board!
Captain Schettino:: I'm in a lifeboat, I am under here. I am not going anywhere. I am here.
Coast Guard: What are you doing, captain?
Captain Schettino:: I am here to co-ordinate the rescue ...
Coast Guard (interrupting): What are you co-ordinating there! Get on board! Co-ordinate the rescue from on board! Are you refusing?
Captain Schettino:: No, I am not refusing.
Coast Guard: Are you refusing to go aboard, captain? Tell me the reason why you are not going back on board.
Captain Schettino:: (inaudible)... there is another lifeboat ...
Coast Guard (interrupting, yelling): You get back on board! That is an order! There is nothing else for you to consider. You have sounded the 'Abandon Ship'. Now I am giving the orders. Get back on board. Is that clear? Don't you hear me?
Captain Schettino:: I am going aboard.
Coast Guard: Go! Call me immediately when you are on board. My rescue people are in front of the bow.
Captain Schettino:: Where is your rescue craft?
Coast Guard: My rescue craft is at the bow. Go! There are already bodies, Schettino. Go!
Captain Schettino:: How many bodies are there?
Coast Guard: I don't know! ... Christ, you should be the one telling me that!
Captain Schettino:: Do you realize that it is dark and we can't see anything?
Coast Guard: So, what do you want to do, to go home, Schettino?! It's dark and you want to go home? Go to the bow of the ship where the ladder is and tell me what needs to be done, how many people there are, and what they need! Now!
Captain Schettino:: My second in command is here with me.
Coast Guard: Then both of you go! Both of you! What is the name of your second in command?
Captain Schettino:: His name is Dmitri (static).
Coast Guard: What is the rest of his name? (static) You and your second in command get on board now! Is that clear?
Captain Schettino:: Look, chief, I want to go aboard but the other lifeboat here has stopped and is drifting. I have called ...
Coast Guard (interrupting): You have been telling me this for an hour! Now, go aboard! Get on board, and tell me immediately how many people there are!
Captain Schettino:: OK, chief.
Coast Guard: Go! Immediately!
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