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Costa Concordia rescuers find 16th body

From Hada Messia, CNN
updated 9:22 AM EST, Tue January 24, 2012
A view of the stricken luxury liner Costa Concordia off the Isola del Giglio on January 22, 2012.
A view of the stricken luxury liner Costa Concordia off the Isola del Giglio on January 22, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A body is found on bridge 3, civil protection officials announce
  • Fuel salvage from the Costa Concordia will not start before Saturday, an official says
  • About 16 people are still missing from among an estimated 4,200 on board
  • The captain is under house arrest facing possible manslaughter charges

Rome (CNN) -- Rescuers searching the stricken Costa Concordia found a body on bridge 3 Tuesday, bringing the number of confirmed dead from the wreck to 16, civil protection officials said.

The discovery leaves about 16 people still missing from among the roughly 4,200 aboard the cruise liner -- about 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members -- at the time of the collision with rocks off the island of Giglio.

The vast majority fled the ship safely, if under chaotic and frightening conditions, according to survivors.

Undersea salvage experts will not start siphoning fuel off the partially sunken liner before Saturday, the man in charge of the operation said Tuesday.

Teams of divers have begun to set up the operation, Franco Gabrielli said in remarks televised from Giglio.

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His comments appear to contradict a timetable laid out Monday by an Italian admiral, who said that salvage workers were to begin pumping fuel out of the liner that day.

Adm. Ilarione Dell'Anna said it would take 28 working days to remove all the fuel from the ship.

Gabrielli did not explain the discrepancy.

He has asked the company that owns the ship to come up with a plan to clean up pollution from the vessel, such as garbage, by Wednesday, he said.

The search for survivors and victims will continue alongside the salvage, said Gabrielli.

The man in charge of the rescue operation said the divers faced a grim task.

"Imagine that you left for holidays and that the power went off in your house. What would you find in your fridge? The divers are in there," Ennio Aquilino said.

Two bodies were found on Monday, and two more over the weekend -- one woman on Saturday and one on Sunday, both wearing life jackets.

Divers used explosives Monday morning to blow more holes in the side of the ship to allow easier access.

The parties involved in the rescue told reporters and residents on the island Sunday that search and rescue efforts will continue -- but that the environmental risk is also becoming urgent.

Officials said they cannot predict how long it will take to clear the wreckage, since that depends on maritime conditions and technical difficulties, but all legal, environmental and human factors will be taken into account.

"It's time for Italy to show it can do something right and do it well," said Gabrielli.

He warned that the task ahead was complicated and daunting, not least because it takes about 45 minutes to search each cabin, using special cameras and divers.

The giant Costa Concordia had 1,500 cabins on board.

A class-action lawsuit will be filed in Miami against Costa and its parent company, Carnival Corp., the Italian consumer group Codacons said Saturday. The suit, in collaboration with two U.S. law firms, is "aimed specifically at getting compensation for all damages to the boat passengers," Codacons said in a statement. The class-action suit is open to passengers of any nationality, it said.

"We've been contacted by hundreds of victims and the numbers are growing moment by moment," said Mitchell Proner, senior partner at Proner & Proner, one of two firms involved. He said crew members have also contacted the firm, "and their stories that are coming in are horrific -- from lifeboats that were stuck halfway, passengers debating whether to jump or not. This was not an orderly evacuation."

The suit, he said, will request at least 125,000 euros (about $160,000) per passenger.

The suit has not yet been filed, said Marc Bern, senior partner at the other firm, Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik, but "it will probably be in the billions of euros and dollars."

"The sheer terror of being on a ship of that magnitude going down, you can imagine the psychological damage," Bern said.

Meanwhile, Gabrielli said no fuel oil had yet leaked from the ship -- only kitchen and engine oil -- and that he did not see an immediate risk of the 2,400 tons on board escaping.

Booms have been put in place around the ship to stop the spread of oil and other pollutants such as detergents and sewage chemicals. With more than 4,000 people aboard, the ship was the size of a small town, Gabrielli said.

Fuel will be replaced with water as it is removed from the ship's tanks, keeping the ship balanced, said Dell'Anna, head of coastal authorities for the port city of Livorno.

Gabrielli said Costa Cruises, the company that owns the cruise ship, is cooperative and was proving responsible, despite past errors.

Both Costa Cruises and authorities have criticized Capt. Francesco Schettino, who is under house arrest and faces possible charges of manslaughter, shipwreck and abandoning ship.

Prosecutors have accused the captain of piloting the ship too fast to allow him to react to dangers, causing the shipwreck, according to legal papers. Schettino maintains his innocence.

CNN's Dan Rivers, Livia Borghese, Marilia Brocchetto, Vivian Kuo and journalist Barbie Nadeau contributed to this report.

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