A young Peruvian waitress whose body was recovered from the shipwrecked Costa Concordia off the Tuscan island of Giglio has been hailed a heroine. Erika Fani Soriamolina's body was found by divers on the sixth deck of the vessel wearing the ship's uniform but no life jacket.

Braveheart: Witnesses say they saw Erika Fani Soriamolina
(inset) helping several other passengers aboard the ship.
File pic

Witnesses said Soriamolina had helped dozens of terrified passengers into lifeboats on the night of the disaster before giving the life jacket to an elderly man. A tourism graduate, Soriamolina was working on only her third cruise on the Costa Concordia .

The recovery of the young woman's body ended a desperate search by her parents and sister Madeleine who were among the family members of passengers and crew waiting for news of their loved ones on Giglio.

Toll rises
On Saturday, the body of a woman found several days ago was identified as German passenger Inge Shall.
Seventeen people are now confirmed dead after the cruise ship struck rocks and ran aground with 4,200 passengers and crew on board and more than 15 people are still missing.

Eco concerns
There are fresh concerns on yesterday about a potential environmental disaster after experts discovered the ship had moved 1.4 inches over a six-hour period. Search and salvage operations were suspended after the move was detected while heavy seas and strong winds also made it unsafe to continue operations.

A barge carrying pumping equipment that was attached to the capsized ship was withdrawn on Saturday and it was unclear when operations might resume. One of the scientists monitoring the ship, Professor Riccardo Fanti from the University of Florence, said the ship's latest movement was of serious concern. Until now the ship has been moving 3 to 4 millimetres an hour.

"This is much higher than before," Prof Fanti said. "It is the highest rate we have recorded. We are very concerned about this acceleration."  Experts are concerned that the ship may slide off the rock shelf where it is perched into deeper water before salvage teams can recover the 2,400 tonnes of fuel on board and avert an environmental disaster in Giglio. Franco Gabrielli, the head of the Costa Concordia emergency operation, yesterday said it would take "seven to 10 months" to remove the wreckage of the ship.