Rescue continues on day 15, 17th body found

Jan 29, 2012, 08:42 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Costa Concordia divers recovered the 17th body in an ongoing search operation. The unidentified body is of a woman, raising hopes that Indian crewmember Russel might have survived the mishap

Divers recovered a body, that of a female, from the sixth floor of the ill-fated Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia that sunk off the Tuscan coast on January 13, taking the toll of recovered bodies to 17.

While the body still remains to be identified, the family of Indian national Russel Rebello, who worked as a crew member in the liner and is missing, is relieved that it is not Rebello. When contacted, the missing crew member's brother-in-law, Vikram Pinto, who is based in Naigaon, said, "We are hopeful that a miracle will happen and the entire family is just waiting for that moment." According to Pinto, they are hopeful that Rebello might have been able to survive, and drifted off on a lifeboat.

Search operators on Saturday entered the fifth and sixth floors of the ship. Among the 16 people who are still missing, 13 are passengers of French, German and American origin, and three are crew members from India, Peru and Italy. The seventh floor and the open-air deck are still to be searched for bodies.

According to Rebello's elder brother Kevin, who is currently in Gigilo, Italy, from where rescue operations are being carried out, "Apart from the local police, 10 other units consisting of over 1,000 search experts are working around the clock to recover missing bodies." He added, "The body recovered on Saturday is yet to be identified. Although the divers have spotted it, another unit of divers will bring the body out of the ship."

Search operations are reportedly proving difficult, as visibility is low, owing to debris and other floating objects in the cruise. The colour of the water has reportedly darkened and divers unable to see anything have resorted to touching and feeling objects to know if it might be a body. While cabins and rooms are being opened using dynamites, divers are reportedly taking between 45 to 50 minutes to check each cabin.

Kevin said, "The water in and around the spot where the cruise sunk, has become contaminated with debris. Now, a special team will start extracting oil from the ship." The ship reportedly contains 2,500 tons of oil, and authorities are worried that if the oil leaks it could cause an environmental disaster. Oil-extraction work is expected to commence today and carry on for 28 days.

Because of the decomposed state of bodies being recovered, their identities are being established by comparing their DNA samples with the next of their kin.

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