A BBC report today says that the search for any remaining bodies on Costa Concordia has been completely abandoned due to difficult underwater conditions hampering search and rescue efforts.
As the cruise ship languishes off the coast of Tuscany next to the island of Giglio, a spokesman for the island’s fire brigade confirmed: "We have definitively stopped the underwater search inside the ship."
A total of 17 bodies have been found since disaster struck on the night of Friday 13th January, and 15 people are still unaccounted for. Rough sea conditions and corridors cluttered with furniture underwater have made rescue attempts very difficult.
Divers have had to restrict their search and rescue efforts to 50 minutes per dive, making it hard to access sections of the partially submerged ship.
Italy’s civil protection agency which is overseeing the rescue, says it has contacted the families of those still missing, and appropriate foreign embassies as well.
Emergency crews will continue to inspect parts of the ship that remain above water and use specialist equipment to try and find any bodies on the sea bed.
A multi-million pound lawsuit has been filed in the US by passengers who were on the Costa Concordia when it ran aground. Six passengers are claiming £292m in damages against the owners of the liner, Costa Cruise lines, and its parent company, Carnival Corporation. According to news reports, the lawyer representing the passengers said his clients would never stop feeling the pain and suffering caused by the disaster off the Italian coast. The Guardian newspaper says an American legal team working with lawyers from around the world has announced details of a $460m civil suit filed in Florida seeking damages for passengers on board.
Meanwhile, news reports say uninjured passengers have been offered $11,000 (about £9,200) each in financial compensation by Costa Cruises to cover loss of belongings, inconvenience and distress – on condition that they drop any legal action against the cruise company.
The offer was announced after a day of negotiations between Costa representatives and Italian consumer groups representing 3,206 people from 61 countries.