Italian divers today gave up their search on the wreck of the Costa Concordia, in which 32 people are feared to have died, as workers prepared to start pumping out fuel to avoid an oil spill.
"We have definitively stopped the underwater search inside the ship," said Luca Cari, fire brigade spokesman on the island of Giglio, explaining that conditions inside the giant half-submerged liner were becoming too risky.
"The conditions are no longer acceptable," he told AFP.
The civil protection agency, which has been overseeing rescue efforts following the January 13 disaster, said in a statement it had contacted the families of the missing and foreign embassies involved to explain its decision.
It added that rescuers would continue to inspect the above-water part of the liner and use specialist equipment to check for corpses on the seabed in an 18-square-kilometre area around the wreck.
The 114,500-tonne Costa Concordia with more than 4,200 people aboard ran aground on rocks off Giglio and lurched on to its side as passengers were settling down to dinner shortly after the start of a Mediterranean cruise.
Seventeen bodies have been recovered from the sea and the wreck and 15 people remain missing.
The search has had to be suspended several times due to choppy seas and small movements of the wreck, which sparked fears that the massive ship could slip off the rocky shelf it is resting on and sink entirely.
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