Rescuers recovered two more bodies from the Costa Concordia on Monday, nine days after the cruise ship sank near Giglio Island, Italy.
The confirmed death toll from the accident is now at 15, while 17 people are either still missing and six bodies have yet to be identified. Rescuers are determined to continue to search the ship unit all parts of the vessel that can be inspected have been checked, civil protection services chief Franco Gabrielli told reporters.
The two bodies -- reportedly both women -- were found near the ship's internet cafe after Italian Navy divers blew more holes in the Concordia's hull with explosives. On Sunday, the body of a woman was found at the stern of the vessel.
While the chances of finding anyone alive are rapidly shrinking, there are still hopes that the missing will turn up. On Wednesday, missing German passenger Gertrud Goergens was found alive and well in Germany.
Authorities on Monday also gave the green light to Rotterdam-based Smit Salvage to begin pumping out the Concordia's 500,000 gallons of fuel. Previously, Italian officials said they wanted to wait for the rescue mission to be completed, but with rough seas threatening to tip the boat on its rocky perch, potentially puncturing its fuel tanks, the 28-day procedure needs to start as soon as possible.
Smit has been ready for a week to begin pumping fuel from the tanks, awaiting only the go- ahead, said a company statement.
For this purpose, SMIT has mobilized an oil tanker with emergency response equipment including sweeping arms, booms and a skimmer.
In a process known as hot-tapping, Smit will pump out fuel and pump in water to maintain an even weight and the ship's balance. The ship is currently shifting only a few millimeters per day, but if it lost balance it could topple deeper into the pristine waters off the coast of Giglio, which have in the past won awards for being the clearest in Italy.
The Concordia sunk on Jan. 14 after captain Francesco Schettino ran aground and ripped a 230-foot hole in the ship's hull. Despite messages from crew members that nothing was wrong, the ship sank in about an hour.
The Costa cruise company has placed the full responsibility of the accident on Schettino's shoulders. The captain is currently under house arrest and has been charged with multiple counts of manslaughter and abandoning ship. While many of the details of what happened on that fateful Friday night are still unclear, one of the ship's officers, Silvia Coronika, came to Schettino's defense, saying that noisy passengers had distracted the captain while he was navigating the shallows off the shore of Giglio.
There was someone who asked which island it was and the maitre d'hotel was chatting, basically disturbing the steering, with a consequent impact on concentration, the officer, who was on the bridge during the crash, told The Guardian.
The Associated Press printed the list of the dead and missing. Those not designated crew were passengers.
CONFIRMED DEAD (15; not including the bodies awaiting identification):
Sandor Feher - Hungary, crew, 38
Jeanne Gannard - France
Pierre Gregoire - France
Giovanni Masia - Italy, 86
Thomas Alberto Costilla Mendoza - Peru, crew
Jean-Pierre Micheaud - France, 61
Francis Servil - France - 71
Guillermo Gual - Spain, 68.
Maria Dintrono - Italian, 30.
UNACCOUNTED FOR (23, including the six bodies awaiting identification)
Dayana Arlotti - Italy
William M. Arlotti - Italy
Elisabeth Bauer - Germany
Michael M. Blemand - France
Horst Galle - Germany
Christina Mathi Ganz - Germany
Norbert Josef Ganz - Germany
Girolamo Giuseppe - Italy, crew
Gabriele Grube - Germany
Barbara Heil - United States
Gerald Heil - United States
Egon Hoer - Germany
Mylene Litzler - France
Margarethe Neth - Germany
Russel Terence Rebello - India, crew
Inge Schall - Germany
Erika Fani Soriamolina - Peru, crew
Siglinde Stumpf - Germany
Brunhild Werp - Germany
Josef Werp - Germany
Margrit Schroeter - Germany
Maria Grazia Trecarichi - Italy
Luisa Antonia Virzi, - Italy