Although 16 people are still missing, Italian authorities called off the search for bodies inside the sunken Costa Concordia cruise ship around 3:45 p.m. local time on Tuesday.
After concluding technical studies of the ship, which ran aground and sank off of Giglio Island on Jan. 13, Italy's Civil Protection agency determined that the damaged hull of the Concordia created too many safety hazards for rescue divers to continue the search for the missing persons.
“We have definitively stopped the underwater search inside the ship,” a spokesman for the Giglio fire brigade told Agence France Presse.
“The conditions are no longer acceptable.”
There is currently a 160-foot rip in the side of the vessel from when the Concordia hit a reef off the shore of the Tuscan island, and search and rescue teams have been blowing additional holes in the ship with explosives in order to reach closed-off areas.
After nearly three weeks of operations, 17 bodies have been pulled from the ship, 16 of which have been identified. The search effort was punctuated by rough seas and bad weather; authorities halted the search a number of times for fear that boat would shift off its reef-perch and fall completely under the water.
The Associated Press reported that the families of the 16 missing, as well as their home nations, have been informed of the Italian officials decision.
Rescuers will continue to search the parts of the ship that are above water, as well as an 18-square-kilometre area of the sea bed below the ship, according to The National Post.